How the Western Cape takes corruption seriously

by The Editor

ARTICLE: The 2011 State of the Public Service Report sets out in stark detail how reported cases of corruption are ignored by the majority of the public service and those departments responsible for investigating them. Indeed, the percentage of reported cases for which feedback has been received has fallen from 70% to just 10% in six years. The stand out exception? The Western Cape. Read on for some significant statistics.

How the Western Cape takes corruption seriously

By: Gareth van Onselen

4 May 2012

Every year the Public Service Commission produces its most important report: The State of the Public Service Report, which analyses the condition of the public service across the country.

This year’s report is due in two or three month’s time.

As part of its various initiatives to combat corruption, the PSC established a consolidated Anti-Corruption Hotline in September 2004 (it replaced a range of hotlines, each within individual departments). Analysing its performance is a standard feature in the PSC report. Essentially the hotline receives complaints and forwards them onto the relevant department to deal with. How and if they respond to each complaint is then recorded.

The 2011 report contains within it such an analysis (page 9) – a table I have changed into a set of bullet points for the purpose of this blog:

Feedback received on National Anti-Corruption Hotline Cases referred to departments

2004/05: 72% feedback – 600 (cases referred); 433 (feedback received)
2005/06: 41% – 1 046; 431
2006/07: 50% – 1 127; 559
2007/08: 43% – 1 469; 637
2008/09: 27% – 1 857; 507
2009/10: 10% – 1 430; 150
Total: 36% – 7 529; 2 717

The set of figures above demonstrate just how bad things have become over the past six years.

Not only has the number of cases reported increased dramatically – from 600 in 2004/05 to 1 430 in 2009/10 – but the amount of feedback received on them has declined just as dramatically in the other direction – from 72% in 2004/05 to a mere 10% in 2009/10.

Overall the figure for the six years in question stands at just 36%

In its report, the PSC puts it like this:

“The above table suggests that for every 100 allegations of corruption received through the NACH and referred to departments for investigation, the PSC (and the whistleblowers) have no idea what is happening to 64 of them.”

But that is just with regards to the overall figure, for 2009/10, things have worsened to the extent that 90 out of every 100 cases reported vanished into the ether. If you are a member of the public with a concern, and faced with those statistics, you would be forgiven for wondering if there was any point to registering your concern at all. Likewise, in the other direction, if you are a corrupt civil servant, those statistics are effectively an incentive to carry on regardless, because the chances of being held to account are minimal.

It really is an indictment. And a constitutes a disdain for the public.

In trying to account for the problem, the PSC report highlights the Western Cape as an example of best practice:

“Departmental capacity to follow up on these cases and investigate them is lacking. It is becoming increasingly clear that the building of such capacity in each department may take much longer, and that immediate attention should perhaps be on creating centralised capacity (in the Offices of Premiers, for example) to help fight corruption. Indeed, in the Western Cape where such centralised capacity has been created in the Office of the Premier (in addition to a unit which exists in the Department of Economic Development and Tourism), the feedback rate on cases of alleged corruption referred to the province has been an encouraging 72% [for 2010].”

72% is not perfect, there is room to improve, but it is as high as the national average has ever been and would seem to demonstrate that the DA-run Western Cape takes corruption and allegations of corruption far more seriously than those ANC-run governments that comprise the rest of the country combined – it is the stand out performer.

Indeed, under the DA, the Western Cape has intensified its approach to corruption busting.

For example: Deloitte’s specialised forensic investigators have been working with the Western Cape’s Forensic Investigation Unit since December 2011 as outsourced contractors and tasked with assisting to root out corruption and recover money misappropriated or stolen from the public sector, in a public-private partnership that is underpinned by the Western Cape Government’s “Better Together” approach. See here for more.

The difference, as the PSC statistics suggest, is that unlike those ANC anti-corruption initiatives, it is underpinned by a serious attitude.

As for those other ANC administrations, well, someone should investigate the situation and it would be interesting to know what the minister of public administration would say in response to a parliamentary question on the hotline, its purpose and its effectiveness, as well as the ANC government’s attitude towards it.

In April 2010 President Jacob Zuma said the following: “The simple truth is that we face a crisis of accountability. In some of our front and back offices are employed men and women who do not respect the jobs they are employed in or the citizens they are appointed to perform for.”

If the State of the Public Service Report is anything to go by, it is a crisis that extends far beyond accountability.

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