Cape Town - Corruption could become embedded in the public sector if it was not properly challenged, former parliamentarian Gavin Woods said on Tuesday.
Woods, who chaired the standing committee on public accounts, was speaking at the launch of the University of Stellenbosch's Anti-corruption Centre for Education and Research, which he is to head.
He said that where "systemic tendencies" of corruption existed, they were hugely difficult to deal with.
"In fact in a number of other developing countries the experience has been that the battle against corruption is much more difficult to win than to lose," he said.
"In South Africa we still have a chance to prevail - if we all play our part." He said there was an international consensus that out of every ten people, one would never be corrupt, one would easily be corrupt, and the rest would be swayed by pressure or temptation.
It was recognised that most perpetrators of corruption were not sophisticated criminals, but rather individuals who responded to temptation.
"If corruption is not properly challenged and it becomes increasingly systemic in nature, the psychology or mind-set which exists within the public sector work force could manifest into a wider culture of corruption which becomes embedded," Woods said.
This would particularly be true if individuals regularly got away with their transgressions.
The general public, in turn, would become aware of the moral shortcomings of their public service organisations and would become cynical about the morality of public officials and politicians.
"Such cynicism is already in evidence in South Africa," he said.