Publication: Sapa Issued: Date: 2000-11-02 Reporter: Sapa

Corruption Worrying, says Baqwa




Date 2000-11-02



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Public Protector Selby Baqwa on Friday said the level of corruption in South Africa was worrying, but he was confident that mechanisms and structures implemented to fight the scourge would be successful. Baqwa was speaking to Sapa at the end of the four-day international ombudsman conference in Durban.

"South Africa, by the grace of God, is not a banana republic. We do not have corruption from the cradle to the grave.

"There are worrying proportions of corruption, but we have created the capacity to get on top of it. We are not there yet, but we are getting there."

Baqwa, who was elected vice president of the International Ombudsman Institution at the conference, said the creation of structures such as the Assets Forfeiture Unit, the Office for Serious Economic Offences and the elite Scorpions unit were contributing to the capacity of government to crack down on corruption.

Earlier this year Baqwa said corruption figures could be brought down in the next five years.

Since he took up office six years ago, Baqwa has had to deal with a number of controversial issues, the latest being his investigation into allegations of irregularities in South Africa's R30 billion arms deal.

He was also involved in the investigation of Justice Minister Penuell Maduna when he was still mineral and energy affairs minister and falsely accused the auditor-general of covering up losses of R170 million in the Strategic Fuel Fund.

The allegations led to an investigation which cost the taxpayer millions of rands.

Baqwa found that Maduna had no basis for the allegations and recommended that punitive action be taken against Maduna.

Baqwa was also involved in investigating large scale fraud in the Gauteng housing department.

On Thursday he said that while he had no statutory powers, government implemented about 90 percent of the recommendations made by his office.

This indicated a will to root out corruption.

"I have never had a 'phone call from the president to try and influence me," Baqwa said. "I feel that the independence of my office is genuine."

He added that the Office of the Public Protector was becoming more accessible to the people of South Africa and by the end of next year Public Protector offices would have been established in all nine provinces. First in line were KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Mpumalanga.

Financial problems experienced by his office were being looked at by government.

While issues such as housing and job creation took precedence when it came to budget allocations, the issue of good governance should not be trivialised.

Both President Thabo Mbeki and former president Nelson Mandela this week emphasised the importance of the role of the Public Protector in keeping South Africa's young democracy and the Bill of Rights alive.

With acknowledgement to Sapa.