Cape Town - Corruption is increasing to harm the
economy and undermine government's service delivery obligations, mostly
to the detriment of the poor, said Gavin Woods, head of the University
of Stellenbosch's Anti-Corruption Centre for Education and Research
Woods made his comments on Thursday ahead of the United
Nations World Anti-Corruption Day on December 9, held annually to raise
awareness about corruption and how to combat the worldwide scourge.
Marius Alberts, a director of professional services firm
Deloitte, said several studies have shown that poor people are always
the worst affected by corruption.
Also on Thursday Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi
described corruption as having become a matter of life and death.
"In parts of SA today, people are being intimidated or even
killed for exposing and preventing corruption. Corruption is a threat to
a better life for all," he said.
Vavi said the flood of corruption scandals and the spread of
the culture of greed and self-enrichment were threatening to unravel the
fabric of society.
He also said audits have shown that the level of accumulation
and misappropriation of state resources has reached alarming
Departments were not enforcing the laws, and officials were
exploiting gaps in the laws to win government tenders. It painted a
bleak picture of public servants who are supposed to be caring for the
public, but are in fact promoting their own narrow financial interests,
He then described a "nightmare future of a SA up for auction to the highest bidder".
Woods said by many accounts corruption was becoming systemic
in nature. This made it clear that the public and private sectors
have yet to gain an adequate understanding of this complex phenomenon
and its multi-causal nature, as demonstrated by the limited
effectiveness of initiatives to combat it.
According to Woods, laws and rules fail to invoke the moral
conscience of would-be perpetrators of corruption. These laws also did
not manage to deter them.
Research conducted by Accerus showed that weak, inexperienced
and incompetent managers in government departments also allowed
corruption to flourish.
"Even the possibility of increased investigations by legally
empowered investigative agencies has failed to change corrupt behaviour
trends," Woods said.
A lack of management experience means that many senior
government officials are not able to cope with the responsibility of
"Officials without the requisite experience and qualifications
often cannot deal with budgets and struggle to manage supply chain and
procurement systems," Woods said.
He said this created the ideal opportunity for people to be corrupt without fear of being caught.
"Since many senior managers do not comprehend anti-corruption
legislation, they are unwilling to enforce these laws," Woods said.
Alberts said the cost of corruption in monetary terms was hard
to quantify, simply because it is paid with the intention to be covert
and sometimes takes the form of a favour.
However, he said several studies have shown that corruption always affects the poor the hardest.
"The actual financial costs are also difficult to compare or
measure against the human tragedy behind illiteracy, or inadequate
medical care, brought about because of corrupt activities," he said.
Alberts said the fact that SA's position on Transparency
International's 2011 Corruption Index was worse than 2010 did not bode
well for the future.
In 2010 SA was at position 54 with a score of 4.5 out of 10
(with 0 being highly corrupt). In 2011 we are at position 64, with a
score of 4.1.