Getting to the Roots of Corruption
One of the most vexing challenges confronting the global political economy is the proliferation of corruption in both the public and private spheres. The negative effects of corruption on economic growth are well documented, with empirical data showing an inverse relationship between corruption and growth.
In his seminal work, The Elusive Quest for Growth, William Easterly avers that corruption has both a direct and indirect effect on growth the indirect effect exemplified by its making other policies that affect growth worse, for example, the diversion of funds from public revenue and blowing up public expenditure through kickbacks.
It is common knowledge that the South African political economy has not been immune to corruption. The question should thus not be whether there is corruption or not, but rather what the government, working with all sectors of society, is doing about combating it.
There is a tendency to subjectively view corruption as the sole preserve of government. We need to anchor our analyses of corruption in the context of our history as well as the "culture of graft" within the private sector and all of civil society. Besides the principle that for any "getter" there should be a "giver", there are many cases before the courts which illustrate this point.
We need to grasp that corruption is a global phenomenon. The Enron and Parmalat scandals as well as the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme are just three instances of cases currently before the courts in the US, Italy and Lesotho.
In recent years, government has stepped up its activities to fight corruption. Our efforts have become more systematic, with greater emphasis on instituting appropriate policy measures to prevent corruption. Quite interestingly, about 80% of cases on corruption are only reported after being exposed by government itself.
Early in 2001, in line with the cabinet's decision to fast-track our anticorruption work, I created a unit in my department to co-ordinate and integrate government's anticorruption work. We established a strategy the public service anticorruption strategy that balanced prevention, action against corruption and sustainable systems of prevention, information and communication.
The requirements of the constitution, the public service anticorruption strategy, anticorruption summit recommendations and government's policy decisions have been translated into several anticorruption measures. These include:
Government has introduced and promoted various pieces of vital legislation such as the Protected Disclosures Act, Promotion of Access to Information Act, Financial Intelligence Centre Act, Promotion of Administrative Justice Act and the introduction of new and improved Prevention of Corrupt Activities Bill.
Establishment of strong institutional capacity at national level to complement basic police work, with such institutions as the public protector, the National Prosecuting Authority, the special investigating unit, the Public Service Commission, the Financial Intelligence Centre and auditor-general.
The establishment of an Asset Register for Accounting Officers and mandatory financial disclosure of assets and interests for all senior managers has also helped to curb any inclination towards corruption in the public service.
The enactment of the Public Finance Management Act, including requirements for departments to do risk assessment and develop fraud prevention plans, is another strategic step.
Government commissioned a study of all agencies involved in anticorruption work to enhance efficiencies and impact.
The cabinet has approved proposals for a national anticorruption toll-free number; project implementation should be completed by the new financial year.
The Anticorruption Co-ordinating Committee, consisting of 14 departments and agencies in government, has been set up to co-ordinate implementation of the public service anticorruption strategy and other anticorruption work.
Decisions of the moral regeneration summit, which involved all sectors of society, are steadily being taken forward.
Critics may argue about the ineffectiveness of our government in dealing with corruption. However, while acknowledging that a great deal of work needs to be done, we should all draw inspiration from the fact that SA has an effective legislative and regulatory framework to combat corruption.
We have developed a base of information to monitor and evaluate the efficacy of anticorruption measures. Business and civil society are showing an increasing willingness to partner government and optimise the contribution they can make in this battle.
Underlying this collective process should be a sustained campaign to effect an "RDP of the soul" to popularise new value systems within our society and work together to send a clear message that corruption does not pay.
Fraser-Moleketi is Public Service and Administration Minister.
With acknowledgements to Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and the Business Day .