Civil society group Corruption Watch has published its annual report for 2020, highlighting the rampant corruption which hit the country during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition to issues relating to procurement and the distribution of essential goods and services, there were shocking reports of police and army brutality and abuse of power, the group said.
Corruption Watch said these issues led to it recording the second-highest number of reports of corruption received in a calendar year since its inception in 2012.
2020 was also the year that saw the highest number of reports implicating the policing and healthcare sectors, it said.
A total of 4,780 incidents of corruption were reported last year, forming part of the just under 33,000 reports of corruption received by the organisation since 2012.
On average 11 complaints were received daily from across South Africa, using available online and digital platforms to highlight the ongoing acts of graft in both the public and private sectors.
As in previous years, the majority of reports came from Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.
“While it’s pleasing to report that most of Corruption Watch’s key campaigns have continued throughout the lockdown periods and the volume of reports received by us have increased, it is with anger and sadness that we also have to report that the corrupt took advantage of the public health crisis to loot the procurement necessitated by Covid and even stooped as low as to steal from the various relief programmes,” said David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch.
The most frequently-reported forms of corruption during the year were maladministration (17%), procurement corruption (16%) and fraud (15%).
These acts of corruption include issues such as compliance issues, procurement irregularities, soliciting of kickbacks, and fraudulent activities in various state institutions, agencies and departments, as well as businesses.
Of these, 11% of reports allege corruption in the South African Police Service, 6% point to corruption in schools, 4% refer to corruption in the health sector, and 3% point to corruption in the awarding of driver’s licenses.
Corruption Watch said that 11% of reports it received alleged corruption in the South African Police Service (SAPS).
The most commonly reported type so corruption including dereliction of duty (29%), abuse of power (28%) and bribery (27%).
“The continued prominence of SAPS-related corruption reports can be attributed not only to the policing environment in the context of the Covid-19 National State of Disaster and lockdown regulations, but also to the Corruption Watch project that has for several years highlighted police abuse and mismanagement,” the group said.
“As a country, we continue to experience increasing levels of crime and corruption, which is aided and abetted by the very institutions that were set up to mitigate and combat these issues,” it said.
The group added that the SAPS is frequently seen as the most corrupt institution in South Africa – citing the Global Corruption Barometer (2019) and the Corruption Watch’s Youth Perceptions survey (2020).
“Its apartheid-era culture of impunity, brutality and abuse of power has found its way into democratic South Africa, reducing public confidence in the police service and tarnishing the courageous efforts of those dedicated police officers who risk their lives daily to make our country a safer place.”
Corruption Watch said that it received numerous reports relating to corruption in the health sector during 2020, with 149 of such cases received.
“The weakened healthcare system in South Africa has been a breeding ground for corruption for years,” it said.
“Under Covid-19, while visits to healthcare facilities may have been reduced, the cases of corruption featured in the Corruption Watch reports centred on procurement corruption, employment corruption, and fraud, counting for 21%, 15% and 11% respectively.”
However, the group said that corruption in the healthcare sector has been brewing for years.
“Decades of misappropriation and theft of resources, procurement corruption, and bribery were exposed when our health facilities could not contend with the vast numbers of people needing treatment for Covid-19.”