Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga said on Friday that corruption within the South African tender and procurement system was widespread – but it’s not only government to blame.
Malunga, an advocate, was addressing the National Anti-Corruption Symposium at the Durban University of Technology’s Ritson Campus on Friday.
Malunga began his address by asking how many people in the room wanted to become tenderpreneurs. He also asked the crowd how many people had paid or knew someone who had paid for their driver’s licenses.
He said for every corruptee, there was a corrupter and both were equally guilty in the eyes of the law.
“People should not be fooled, corruption is not just a government problem. It is those tenderpreneurs and future ones, who are part of the problem because they are the ones doing the bribing.”
Malunga said procurement was one of the biggest challenges in South Africa in terms of corruption.
“I would estimate that more than 60% of tenders currently are contaminated with some sort of influence that is untoward.”
He said the Public Protector’s office was investigating cases of dodgy procurement countrywide.
“We have a situation where the country is literally having millions, if not billions, of rands stolen from it through unsuitable procurement.
“People do false billing, double billing and inflation of prices or they just don’t do the work.”
He said there was a suburb in Limpopo nicknamed “Tender Park”, where tenderpreneurs bought homes.
“If you had to ask them how they contributed to the economy, they won’t be able to tell you.”
He said some South Africans behaved like those in British journalist Michela Wrong’s book It’s our turn to eat – about corruption in Kenya.
“People have decided that it is our turn to eat, we are not going to provide value for money and who cares what you think, as long as we get paid. This is a culture I call something for nothing, which has taken root on a very aggressive scale,” Malunga said.
He said civil society played a big role in fighting corruption.
There were people who formed non-profit organisations, just to drive expensive cars and eat donor funds, he said.
“You cannot be a fighter for the workers or social justice and love Gucci and Johnnie Walker Blue [Label]. It is a contradiction. We see it all the time, unionists who love The Hilton and leather chairs and cigars.”
He said civil society should not preach that people who work for the state earn slave wages because, he believed, it did not encourage clean governance.
“When public servants are poorly paid and stay in crummy flea-infested hotels, someone will come and pay for a better facility or supplement their salary. That is how corruption starts.
“The model that says civil servants must be remunerated is critical in the course to fight corruption…”
He said civil society could, at times, be irresponsible by calling all government officials corrupt.
“Our most important whistle-blowers are in the system. We get a lot of our most powerful information and anonymous complaints from state employees.
“The state also does good work and there are honest employees in the system,” said Malunga.