Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2004-07-12 Reporter: The Editor

Exorcising Corruption



The Star

Date 2004-07-12


The Editor

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The root of all corruption is, but not exclusively, a conflict of interest. To assess if there is any conflict of interest, one needs to know whether decision-makers have a stake in the institutions or companies they are dealing with.

But, as chairperson of the Public Service Commission Stan Sangweni intimates, our country's senior civil servants, including directors-general, are refusing to declare their interests. In fact, 67% of them have unashamedly ignored requests to do so. This is despite their contracts of employment and the Financial Disclosures of Heads of Departments and certain other Employees Regulations exhorting them to declare. The implications of this are grave.

If senior managers fail to declare their interests and do not show commitment to good governance, how do we expect junior civil servants, generally poorly paid, to stay clear of corruption and observe the rules?

And this issue arises at a time when many people are still trying to come to terms with the fact that several members of parliament are implicated in a travel scam. No wonder confidence in "the system" is low.

But, most importantly, of what use are good anti-corruption policies if they cannot be enforced? If we, as a country, are successfully to fight corruption, we need more than fine-sounding policies which gather dust in cabinets. We must go the whole hog.

It is crucial to point out, however, that failure to declare one's interests does not amount to corruption. But the flagrant disregard for disclosure shown by some of the country's senior managers - the very people entrusted with dispensing billions of rands in government procurement - suggests they have something to hide. That prompts the question: if senior bureaucrats are not corrupt, why are they refusing to provide such information?

With acknowledgement to The Star.