The most common types of corruption in South Africa

Civil society group Corruption Watch has published its annual report for 2021, highlighting the types of corruption that have continued to affect the country post-pandemic.

Over 3,200 whistle-blowers across South Africa reported allegations and experiences of corruption and other forms of misconduct to Corruption Watch over the reporting period, bringing the total number of complaints received since 2012 to 36,224.

Corruption Watch stressed that for the last decade South Africa’s government has failed in its efforts to make real inroads against the root causes of corruption.

According to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) which is a respected leading global indicator of public sector corruption, which scores and ranks 180 countries and territories across the globe, South Africa has a CPI of 44/100.

Meaning that South Africa has high corruption within its public sector, despite being above the average sub-Saharan African country that has an average score of 33.

For the year in review, the group reported high levels of maladministration at 18% of all reports, procurement corruption (16%) and abuse of authority (16%).

These acts of corruption include issues such as fraudulent activities in state institutions, compliance issues, procurement irregularities and kickbacks.

Type of Corruption Percentage of total reports
Maladministration 18%
Procurement corruption 16%
Abuse of Authority 16%
Fraud 14%
Misappropriation of resources 12%
Dereliction of duty 8%
Bribery or extortion 8%
Employment corruption 8%

Similar to last year, the majority of complaints were from Gauteng followed by the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal:

  • Gauteng – 45%
  • Western Cape – 10%
  • Kwa-Zulu Natal – 10%
  • Eastern Cape – 6%
  • Limpopo – 6%
  • Unknown – 6%
  • Free State – 5%
  • North West – 5%
  • Mpumalanga – 5%
  • Northern Cape – 2%

The group reported that the bulk of corruption issues or other forms of misconduct stemmed from the public sector, including the national government (28%), the provincial government (8%) and the local government.

Corruption Watch said that 24% of all corruption reports in 2021 related to local government.

The group said that this is due to a leadership crisis where politicians and administrators are serving their personal, factional and private interests, rather than the interests of the people or the constitution.

The table below details which sectors counted for the most corruption as well as what type of corruption was most prevalent:

Sector Percentage of total reported Most common type of corruption
Police 10.0% Abuse of authority
Schools 5.8% Abuse of authority
Covid-19 related corruption 3.8% Maladministration
Housing 3.1% Maladministration
Health 2.7% Procurement corruption
Traffic 2.7% Bribery and extortion
Licensing 2.3% Bribery and extortion
Mining 1.2% Maladministration

Policing 

Corruption Watch said that in respect of corruption in the South African Police Service, abuse of authority refers to incidents or graft where police officers and officials make use of state resources to exert pressure or act violently towards civilians.

“In relations to bribery or extortion, officers and officials solicit these from members of the public when ordinary persons seek the protection of the police,” said the group.

Gauteng has the highest count of corruption associated with policing in the country at 47%, followed by the Eastern Cape with 15% and the Kwa-Zulu Natal with 11%.

Corruption Watch has over the years uncovered large-scale erosion of the systems and institutions that constitute the law enforcement agencies in South Africa.

“The need for stronger accountability mechanisms in law enforcement agencies, and a more transparent and robust process of appointing leaders in this critical sector, could not be more urgent if there is to be any chance of effectively combating corruption in South Africa,” stressed the group.


Read: Government plans to ‘shake up’ laws for businesses in South Africa – what you should know

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The most common types of corruption in South Africa