Corruption is, according to the United Nations Global Compact Report entitled Clean Business is Good Business 2008, the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development around the world. It results in less prosperity, less respect for human rights and other rights, less provision of service and less employment. Corruption stifles economic growth, undermines the rule of law and wastes talent and valuable resources. It undermines democracy, good governance and human rights by weakening institutions of democracy, democratic processes and service delivery. It squanders and redirects resources and funds intended for services like health care, education, clean water, sanitation, and housing, and it takes away opportunities and jobs through nepotism and favouritism. Corruption drives a country to its knees – whether as a result of collapsing infrastructure, half-built or sub-standard or no construction, appointment of below par service providers, or actual theft of public money. It drives away investors, drives up taxes and the cost of living, and drives a wedge between societies – especially in a hugely unequal society like ours.
Unfortunately all of the aforementioned seem to be applicable to South Africa today. According to a report released by the Auditor-General in July 2014, R680 million worth of local government tenders were awarded to suppliers in which councillors and other local government and state employees have financial interests. This amount excludes another R164 million worth of contracts awarded to suppliers in which close family of local government employees have a financial interest. According to Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, South Africa scored 44 out of 100 and ranked 67 of the 175 surveyed countries and territories. This index scores countries on a scale from 0, being highly corrupt, to 100, being almost clean. In 2012 and 2013, South Africa scored 43 and 42 respectively, rankings 69th out of 174 and 72nd out of 177. Moreover, according to Statistics South Africa, more than 70% of households in South Africa believed that corruption had increased. The problem is clearly not limited to a few cases or a couple of Rands. It is a national crisis embodied in failing infrastructure, an education system which is failing, a health system that provides little service, vast social grants fraud and public procurement which has become the fiefdom of the politically connected and favoured families. This is not sustainable.
We have to demand accountability from leaders, elected representatives and appointed officials – whether in government, Parliament or public enterprises. We should, as a society, inform ourselves about what our government and the private sector are actually doing to fight corruption and whether they are doing enough. Moreover, we should ask Cabinet (national and provincial), city councils and corporate boards to demonstrate their respective commitments to tackle corruption, not through statements and speeches, but through actions and results. We should hold elected representatives in Parliament, provincial legislatures and local governments accountable if they fail in their accountability and oversight duties, as it simply means they are not doing the job for which they were elected. We also have to shine the light on businesses, whether small or big, which make money by doing business with government through corrupt transactions. Of course, we also must take a stand against corruption in our own societies by reporting acts of corruption, by teaching our children what corruption is and that it is unacceptable, and by refusing to pay or to accept bribes in whatever form. The future of our country and our children depends on us breaking the chain of corruption today – for tomorrow there may be too little left to salvage.
By Adv Johan Kruger, Director: Centre for Constitutional Rights
Photo credit: UN