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Sunday, 29 November 2009

South Africa: Zuma Tells Cabinet Team to Tackle Corruption Scourge

Linda Ensor

19 November 2009

Johannesburg — President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet have vowed to deal with the "scourge" of corruption in the government in a determined and co-ordinated way to prevent it infesting every nook and cranny of society.

The Cabinet yesterday delivered on Zuma's promise in his state of the nation speech to make rooting out corruption one of the priorities of the government.

It will set up an interministerial committee to investigate and make recommendations on "extraordinary steps" to deal with the cancer of corruption in the public service. The decision amounts to an admission by the country's leaders that existing measures to combat corruption are not working, and that urgent action is needed.

The task of the committee will be to devise a comprehensive anticorruption action plan to ensure all corrupt public servants are brought to book as swiftly as possible.

Government spokesman Themba Maseko said at a post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday that much more political direction would be given to state law-enforcement agencies to ensure all incidents of corruption were investigated and strong action was taken.

Public confidence in the government and its agencies has taken a battering in the past few years as a result of the constant stream of media reports on corruption.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that all was not above board in the Department of Correctional Services when it was under former minister Ngconde Balfour .

Allegations emerging from the fraud trial of former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi have fuelled this sense of SA's fatal slippage.

Transparency International reported this week that SA came 55th this year out of 180 countries measured against its corruption perception index.

"Government is of the view that if it does not provide leadership on this scourge of corruption the chances are that it will continue and permeate each and every aspect of South African life," Maseko said.

"We want to give confidence to the public and the international community that government will deal decisively with any incident of corruption in all the spheres of government."

This would be dealt with as a matter of "major priority".

The Cabinet condemned all involved in corrupt practices, including private sector companies that bribed public officials.

The interministerial committee will be chaired by Monitoring and Evaluation Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane, and include Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi , Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka and Social Development Minister Edna Molewa as well as ministerial representatives of the security cluster. It will present a report and proposed strategy to the Cabinet lekgotla in January, which will plot the government's programme of action for the next three years.

Zuma will probably make an announcement on what concrete steps would be taken in his state of the nation speech next year.

If considered necessary, the committee could propose amendments to legislation, the appointment of a permanent anticorruption force or the appointment of an anticorruption commission as recommended by African National Congress treasurer-general Mathews Phosa recently, although these specific suggestions were not discussed by the Cabinet.

The committee will also study the Public Service Commission's recommendations on corruption as well as other reports and draw lessons from the anticorruption strategies of other countries.

Maseko said the Cabinet was concerned that no action had been taken on the numerous reports on corruption which had emerged from investigations within different government departments.

These reports had given rise to the perception that the incidence of corruption within the government in SA was on the rise.

"SA takes very strong exception to corruption as this is a matter which has a negative impact on the country's reputation," Maseko said.

"We want to deal decisively with the perception that corruption is on the rise in the country."

The Cabinet noted the report presented to Parliament this week by Special Investigating Unit head Willie Hofmeyr on incidents of corruption in the Department of Correctional Services, and expressed its confidence that steps would be taken against all individuals implicated.

Parliament's correctional services committee reacted with shock to Hofmeyr's report on how top correctional services officials colluded with a major company in tender rigging.

The officials allegedly accepted millions of rand as "inducements" to ensure contracts worth billions went to a single group of companies.

Hofmeyr mentioned no names, but his report implied that Balfour could be in deep trouble. Balfour had a former director-general, Vernie Petersen, transferred to the Department of Sport in the period when Petersen had begun cracking down on corruption in the department.

The Bosasa group won contracts worth more than R1bn from the department.


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