Po­lit­i­cal will is crit­i­cal if the fight against cor­rup­tion is to gain ground

The cre­ation of an in­tegrity com­mis­sion de­serves ur­gent sup­port

Sunday Times - - Opinion - By UNATHI MPHENDU and NATASJA HOLTZHAUSEN Mphendu is deputy di­rec­tor: in­tegrity man­age­ment in the Gaut­eng of­fice of the premier. Holtzhausen is a lec­turer at the School of Pub­lic Man­age­ment and Ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Univer­sity of Pretoria.

● The grow­ing num­ber of al­le­ga­tions of cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties in our so­ci­ety con­tinue to frus­trate most ci­ti­zens in South Africa. One can­not blame any­one for la­belling these acts of cor­rup­tion sys­temic.

Re­al­is­tic so­lu­tions are sought to ad­dress this chal­lenge. The least that can be done is to en­cour­age those who pro­pose in­ter­ven­tions to man­age this malfea­sance.

An in­di­vid­ual who de­serves sup­port is Ad­vo­cate Paul Hoff­man, who is pas­sion­ate about en­sur­ing that per­sons be held ac­count­able for their ac­tions. He is also well-versed in con­sti­tu­tional matters.

Hoff­man has been putting pres­sure on the Na­tional Assem­bly’s con­sti­tu­tional re­view com­mit­tee to con­sider estab­lish­ing an in­tegrity com­mis­sion.

The pro­posed in­sti­tu­tion’s man­date would be to pre­vent, com­bat, in­ves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute cor­rup­tion.

The pro­posal for an in­tegrity com­mis­sion is sub­mit­ted as an in­ter­ven­tion in­tended to ad­dress South Africa’s de­plorable record in de­ci­sively manag­ing al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion.

Hoff­man’s pro­posal is based on the out­come of a Con­sti­tu­tional Court judg­ment that pro­nounced, dur­ing the Glenis­ter vs Pres­i­dent of the Re­pub­lic of South Africa and Oth­ers case, that South Africa re­quires a spe­cialised unit that is able to func­tion in­de­pen­dently, with ad­e­quate re­sources and trained, full-time staff.

The need for such a unit is even more ev­i­dent given wide­spread as­ser­tions that ex­ist­ing an­ti­cor­rup­tion agen­cies such as the Hawks, the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit and the NPA are ei­ther ma­nip­u­lated, slug­gish or de­lib­er­ately un­der­re­sourced to per­form well be­low the cit­i­zenry’s needs and ex­pec­ta­tions.

On­go­ing al­le­ga­tions of cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties linked to high-pro­file in­di­vid­u­als within both the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors, in­clud­ing the poor re­sponse by cer­tain an­ti­cor­rup­tion agen­cies, has re­sulted in pes­simism about any rec­om­mended an­ti­cor­rup­tion re­forms.

This is lead­ing to lethargy in­stead of ac­cel­er­ated ef­forts to con­sider the fea­si­bil­ity of in­tro­duc­ing a cen­tralised new an­ti­cor­rup­tion agency.

Ef­fec­tive per­for­mance by an­ti­cor­rup­tion agen­cies rests on a crit­i­cal el­e­ment for suc­cess: po­lit­i­cal will. Un­for­tu­nately, the Na­tional

Assem­bly con­sti­tu­tional re­view com­mit­tee dis­missed this idea.

One can un­der­stand the cau­tious reser­va­tions of the con­sti­tu­tional re­view com­mit­tee when it comes to ad­vanc­ing the idea of a cen­tralised in­tegrity com­mis­sion, be­cause it is dif­fi­cult for politi­cians to ma­nip­u­late the multi-agency ap­proach.

One can imag­ine the dire con­se­quences if a cen­tralised agency were “cap­tured”.

But the idea of a cen­tralised an­ti­cor­rup­tion unit in South Africa is not go­ing to be wished away be­cause it will un­ques­tion­ably resur­face, es­pe­cially if one takes cog­ni­sance of the fact that it is strongly rec­om­mended by cer­tain in­ter­na­tional an­ti­cor­rup­tion pro­to­cols.

De­vel­op­ing states such as Botswana and

Ge­or­gia have man­aged to keep cor­rup­tion to low lev­els, prov­ing that an­ti­cor­rup­tion re­forms can work if com­ple­mented by strong po­lit­i­cal will. How­ever, fight­ing cor­rup­tion goes be­yond speeches, con­fer­ences and strate­gies.

All po­lit­i­cal prin­ci­pals’ an­nual per­for­mance plans should in­clude re­al­is­tic an­nual targets of the ac­tions taken to ad­dress al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion within re­spec­tive ju­ris­dic­tions. Fur­ther de­mand can be placed on po­lit­i­cal prin­ci­pals to com­mit re­sources to de­ci­sively man­age al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion.

Fur­ther­more, politi­cians should com­mit to be­ing ex­em­plary while oc­cu­py­ing pub­lic of­fice and ac­cept that ac­tion will be taken against them for any acts of un­eth­i­cal con­duct.

One of the fre­quently posed questions is: how much faith can one have in politi­cians to ad­dress malfea­sance?

Few po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who ben­e­fit from cor­rupt prac­tices will im­ple­ment re­forms be­cause these would min­imise their op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Politi­cians might find it dif­fi­cult to re­sist the “car­rots” be­cause of fear of be­ing un­able to main­tain a cer­tain qual­ity of life af­ter their term has ended.

It has to be en­sured that eth­i­cal con­duct is the ex­pected be­hav­iour for some­one elected to of­fice.

Den­mark is a state con­sis­tently com­mended for its eth­i­cal po­si­tion. The pri­mary rea­son at­trib­uted to this at­ti­tude, as in­ter­na­tional stud­ies show, is that the Danes have a very high de­gree of con­fi­dence in each other, not just in their pro­cesses.

This is per­haps an as­pect ne­glected among South Africans.

Ci­ti­zens should be en­cour­aged to take in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity to fight cor­rup­tion rather than sim­ply de­velop rules that must be im­ple­mented by out­side in­sti­tu­tions.

There is some op­ti­mism re­gard­ing the lon­gover­due na­tional an­ti­cor­rup­tion strat­egy. Most importantly, or­di­nary ci­ti­zens will have an op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in this process.

The first pil­lar of the pro­posed strat­egy deals with in­creased pro­tec­tion of whistle­blow­ers. Sev­eral South Africans have lost their lives be­cause of their com­mit­ment to eth­i­cal be­hav­iour.

Cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties can­not be man­aged if per­sons who dis­close al­leged wrong­do­ing are not pro­vided with safe av­enues through which to make these dis­clo­sures. Those that dis­close wrong­do­ing in good faith must be pro­tected ap­pro­pri­ately, and blow­ing the whis­tle should not be per­ceived as a dis­loyal act.

In short, the crit­i­cal el­e­ments of suc­cess in the fight against cor­rup­tion are po­lit­i­cal will ac­com­pa­nied by re­al­is­tic an­nual targets, a strong ci­ti­zens’ voice and pro­tec­tion of whistle­blow­ers.

Pic­ture: Greg Mari­novich

In 2005, an era be­fore the shut­ters came down on ef­fec­tive cor­rup­tion-bust­ing in South Africa, Scor­pi­ons mount a raid on Ja­cob Zuma’s home and those of his lawyers.

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