SOUTH Africa’s descent down Transparency International’s worldwide corruption perception index (CPI) has been precipitous. In 2010 we were 54th. Last year we slid to 69th out of 176 countries.
Almost every day a new corruption or fraud scandal in the political and public sectors is exposed. So common is it that one publication recently referred to South Africans suffering from “scandal fatigue”.
Part of the problem is that corruption in South Africa seems to have no consequence. Few seem to be successfully charged or convicted despite corruption being so brazen.
Few are suspended or fired from the civil service. At worst they are redeployed. Many of our worst offenders just have to wait out the scandal before they score more contracts or find higher positions in the ANC’s cadre hierarchy.
A recent investigation carried out by the Special Investigating Union (SIU), the SA Revenue Service and the Asset Forfeiture Unit revealed graft and nepotism in the provincial health department that many have described as devastating.
But it is nothing new. Auditor general Terence Nombembe annually points out that hundreds of civil servants do business with the state. In 2010/11 698 awards, totalling R978-million, were made to officials in the service of the state or their close family members. The health department admitted two years ago that 12 000 of its employees were doing business with the state.
What has happened since then? Not much. The latest investigation revealed that in just one year 544 department workers were suspected of being ghost employees, 8 034 employees were directors of active companies and 929 were listed as direct suppliers for the department.
What happened to the ANC’s Polokwane and Mangaung undertakings to curb corruption by any and all means? What happened to blacklisting corrupt or useless service providers? What happened to firing corrupt employees who are effectively paid twice to do their job, once as employees and again as contractors or service providers?
While these people score from their corruption, legitimate and honest service providers, who are actually able to deliver at a reasonable cost, are squeezed out.
South Africa does not have the robust and independent systems required to detect and deal with corruption. Even worse, those in positions of power who should be concerned with improving these systems are deeply implicated.
UK-based South African anti-corruption investigator and author Paul Holden says corruption is creating a dysfunctional state unable to deliver services to its population. Scandal fatigued South Africans, many of whom are increasingly resorting to violent protest, would agree.