The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has proposed a review of the Public Protector Act in order to enhance efforts to combat corruption. In a webinar earlier today, the SAHRC said it would like to see a tightening of existing legislative frameworks.
The organisation has also bemoaned the lack of action on numerous Special Investigating Unit (SIU) reports over the last few years.
The outcry over COVID-19 looting and last week’s arrest of a number of politicians and a businessman around the Free State asbestos tender has revived discussions around corruption.
The Hawks expected to arrest more people in Free State asbestos case:
The SAHRC held a webinar with Lawyers for Human Rights and Corruption Watch to discuss the issue.
The Commission’s Gauteng Chairperson Buang Jones says in addition to acting on reports that are already out from the SIU, and making procurement processes transparent, there has to be a review of the Public Protector Act.
“So, the solutions really lie in tightening the current legislative framework. I would also argue that instead of establishing an anti-corruption body, we should review the Public Protector Act so that we enhance the role of the Public Protector in dealing with issues of corruption in the country.”
Corruption Watch releases a report which showed an increase in corruption since last year:
Litigation around corruption cases
The webinar centered around the impact of corruption on citizens.
Lawyers for Human Rights’ Charne Tracey believes that litigation is important to direct attention to this issue.
She says that her organisation has undertaken investigations in different areas and their approach is to address corruption as a systemic issue.
“The responsibilities of NGOs and civil society organisations, I think, is increased litigation. So, with us when we litigate on issues like this we address corruption at Home Affairs as a systematic issue in addition for asking for individual relief and after I did some reading I saw that this is the approach recommended by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights.”
Role of Chapter 9 institutions
Corruption Watch’s Karim Singh says when he used to work for the SIU 10 years ago, they would debate whether there was endemic corruption in South Africa. He says now, following revelations around state capture and some corruption surveys they have done at Corruption Watch, it is clear that institutions were taken over for personal gain.
He also proposed the amalgamation of Chapter 9 institutions saying there needs to be a justification of their budgets versus their performance.
“I think Chapter 9’s also need to look at themselves and look at the role they are playing and whether there are significant visibility and significant outcomes that justify their budgets. For instance, if you look at the National Youth Development Agency, they have an overall budget of 2020/21, R554 million, with an employee cost of R200 million.”
Singh also praised the work of the Auditor-General saying he was tracking COVID-19 corruption in real-time. He believes the rampant corruption is due to the lack of control systems in government and particularly, the Treasury. He has also called for the protection of whistleblowers.
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