Civil society group Corruption Watch has published its latest corruption trends report based on accounts it has received from the start of the year until the end of June.
The bulk of these cases, almost 55%, were gathered after the national state of disaster was declared from mid-March to contain the outbreak of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in South Africa.
Whistle-blower allegations of corruption in the South African Police Service (SAPS), municipal offices, schools, traffic and licensing centres, and the health sector, account for approximately a third of the reports of corruption.
In all the reports received, Corruption Watch said that the trending forms of corruption during this six-month period are:
- Maladministration – the mismanagement and deliberate delaying and bundling up of legal and official government processes. This form counts for 19% of the corruption cases;
- Misappropriation of resources – the theft, misuse, abuse and wasteful spending of state vehicles, equipment, time and funds. These corruption cases account for 14% of reports received and;
- Procurement irregularities – typically relating to the flouting of the awarding of tenders and related processes, these account for 14% of corruption cases.
Speaking on the general level of corruption and its impact in the country, the group equated it to ‘World War 3’.
“The destruction is silent and people observe in morbid fascination as the pockets of kleptocrats are lined with ill-gotten gains and consequently, the healthcare system is strained, schools are empty shells, and police protection is granted to the highest bidders while the poorest in society are brutalised and left for dead in squalor,” it said.
Corruption Watch said that a number of corruption reports focused on the the very institution charged with protecting the rights of all South Africans – the police service.
For the second consecutive year, this focus area, at 13%, leads in terms of complaints received, the group said.
“Whistle-blowers express their despondency and consternation with the police service in an assortment of allegations, which principally highlight the brutality, inconsiderateness and inhumanness toward the public, and lack of regard for law and order that officials and officers display.”
Corruption Watch said that bribery allegations account for 31% of police corruption cases, as officers solicit bribes from suspects and victims of crimes alike, and sometimes from small businesses as well as ordinary members of the public.
These demands for bribes are to allow alleged criminals, generally drug dealers, to operate with impunity or to ‘make dockets disappear’, it said.
The group said that small businesses, mostly informal traders, have their goods confiscated only to have them returned should the owners be willing to pay whatever amount of money is asked for.
In other instances, should a public member wish to remain unbothered and hassle-free, officers allude to the fact that they have the power and means to make a person’s life ‘very difficult’ should he or she be unwilling to co-operate i.e. to part with their money.
Such cases were common during the lockdown period, Corruption Watch said.
During this time, in a few incidents from the SAPS corruption cases received, it was alleged that officers would conduct random stop-searches and raids where people who complied with the regulations were told that they must pay a fee to ensure the security of their belongings and to avoid arrest.
This kind of behaviour also manifested itself in the 29% of allegations relating to abuse of power. In these cases, where bribery was not evident, the information that Corruption Watch received pointed at officers subjecting members of the public to merciless beatings.
“We are informed that such sporadic acts of violence occurred when the officers accused persons of not complying with lockdown rules and regulations. Ironically, other abuses of power that the police are said to have committed involve the selling of banned goods, mostly alcohol and cigarettes, and allowing unauthorised businesses to trade during the very same period,” it said.
Corruption Watch said that municipality-based corruption makes up 5% of all reports received from January 2020 to the end of June.
“In municipal offices, the most prevalent form of corruption is the misappropriation of resources, which accounts for 35% of these corruption cases,” it said.
“We have learnt from whistle-blowers that officials and employees at municipalities have embezzled and mismanaged funds meant for service delivery and development in communities.”
In some cases, it is reported that tens of millions of rands are unaccounted for and these funds were allocated to the construction of sport facilities, roads and houses.
Going hand-in-hand with misappropriation of resources are the 19% of corruption cases detailing procurement corruption.
“Reporters claim that businesses, at times organised in groupings similar to cartels, pay kickbacks to counsellors who in turn ensure that tender projects are exclusively awarded to them.
“The practice is so entrenched and commonplace that some municipalities have abandoned long-term community projects without any explanation to residents. Additionally, these businesses are repeatedly awarded tenders.”
Corruption Watch said it has also received 67 reports of corruption relating to the provision of food parcels:
In terms of the allegations of corruption at traffic and license centres, the most general form of corruption is bribery, which counts for 63% of these corruption cases. Regarding traffic incidents, motorists maintain that officers solicit bribes at roadblocks.
If a motorist is unwilling to pay a bribe or if they claim to have no money, their vehicles and/or other belongings are confiscated on the basis of a bogus offense.
Meanwhile, at licensing centres, prospective drivers still allege that officials refuse to issue licenses without an accompanying brown envelope worth thousands of rands.