Involve civil society in investigations of Covid-19 corruption

Inter-ministerial committee welcomed, but little faith that government can investigate itself

07/08/2020 12:47:53

Involve civil society in investigations of Covid-19 corruption 

  

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) says it is time for the introduction of substantive and meaningful change and new mechanisms in the fight against corruption. “Covid-19 served to highlight the cracks in our governance systems, giving rise to even more shocking layers of corruption than society became accustomed to,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s CEO. “How can anyone live with themselves when stealing from relief funds that were destined to help those in dire need during this time of crisis?”

The organisation welcomes the President’s decision to appoint an inter-ministerial committee (IMC), but says that experience shows that IMC initiatives produce very few solutions to the problems or issues they seek to address. “The reason is simple: government cannot investigate government. In the words of the late civil activist Tyree Scott: problems won’t get resolved if you leave the people who created them, in charge of finding the solution.”

Duvenage says it is imperative that civil society organisations and anti-corruption watchdogs such as OUTA become involved in the process of both investigating government corruption and then finding solutions. “OUTA has written to President Ramaphosa to ask that civil society is invited to participate. We need independent mechanisms without political interference into uncovering and dealing with corruption in South Africa. Government has been unable to act against their own in the past – why would it be different now?”

OUTA has been actively involved in the uncovering of state capture and other corruption since 2016, laying criminal charges against and sharing investigations into various people implicated in corruption at state-owned enterprises (SOEs) with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Zondo Commission of Inquiry. 

Duvenage says it is understandable that the announcement of the IMC was met with lukewarm and often angry responses from the public. “While Faith Muthambi and Mosebenzi Zwane and others are still in parliament, and while there are no consequences for those involved in state capture, how can South Africans have faith? The recent reinstatement of VBS looters by the ANC NEC, along with their reluctance to introduce rules and regulations to stop government officials and their families from doing business with government says it all." 

OUTA implores President Ramaphosa to get rid of known corrupt people within government. “Don’t just redeploy them to other positions. Trying to enforce the law after corruption takes place is not the answer to our crisis. Prevention is.”

Duvenage says there is still hope for South Africa, but transparency, accountability and public participation is key. “Government should take hands with civil society and clean their house.”

OUTA has an anonymous and secure whistleblowers’ platform, and calls on the public to submit any evidence of government corruption. We will then ensure that it gets handed over to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) tasked to investigate corruption in various departments. You can access the platform here.