Corruption Watch has responded to the public release by President Cyril Ramaphosa of Part 1 of the Zondo Commission Report, which covers state capture in regard to SAA, SAA Technical, SA Express, Eskom, Transnet, Sars and public procurement.
The commission is expected to submit Part 2 and Part 3 of the report to the president before the end of February.
Ramaphosa has assured the public that he will submit the complete final report, comprising parts 1, 2 and 3, to Parliament by June 30, 2022, and will indicate his intention regarding implementing the recommendations made by the commission.
Corruption Watch on Thursday 6 said that the release of the report should galvanise civil society and the public to demand accountability and action when the president responds to the report.
Referring to the evidence of extensive corruption revealed in the report, the organisation is of the view that the public has the right to be part of the process that monitors the implementation of the commission’s recommendations.
Corruption Watch said that giving the public immediate access to the findings and recommendations of the commission, will ensure transparency in the “steps taken to identify priorities” to rehabilitate weakened institutions, and close “corruption-enabling loopholes”.
The anti-corruption organisation is certain that this will strengthen systems and decision-making to help prevent corruption and state capture in the future.
“While we welcome the commitment to transparency in making the report available to the public, and in sharing the timelines that come in to play, the real test will be in the commitment of the leadership to follow through on overturning corrupt processes, and ensuring that all those implicated are brought to book,” said Karam Singh, executive director of Corruption Watch.
“What it does mean is that we as civil society, along with members of the public, will be able to give our full attention to the findings of the report, while also keeping up the pressure for those in leadership to act in accordance with its recommendations,” he added.
“Less encouraging is the length of time that will no doubt ensue before any real action or consequences can be seen,” lamented Singh.
Independent anti-corruption agency
Whilst there were concerns of corruption in public procurement prior to the Jacob Zuma presidency, the scale and extent of procurement fraud escalated under state capture.
Corruption Watch noted that the commission is “unequivocal in its stance on the subversion of procurement processes under the Zuma administration, and the role of the Gupta family and other ANC-aligned business entities in orchestrating state capture”. It also recognised the commission’s recommended reforms of the tender procurement system.
The organisation endorses the commission’s recommendation for an independent anti-corruption agency, and agrees that careful consideration should be given to where the agency is located in relation to government.
Corruption Watch is involved in ongoing work on procurement, including addressing the gaps in the current Public Procurement Bill, as well as recommending the implementation of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) principles for integrity in public procurement.
The organisation has advocated for deferred prosecution agreements, as has the commission.
Singh, together with Petrus Marais and Kaede Wildschut are of the view that a deferred prosecution agreement regime would offer relief for the current backlog in public prosecutions and offers cost benefits.
Compensation for whistleblowers
The Zondo Commission opined that the whistleblower is an effective weapon against corruption, however, it acknowledged that the present system provides no inducement to reveal corruption.
The commission submitted that the current body of legislation does not provide a clear-cut procedure for the whistle-blower to follow, nor does it ensure physical protection.
Corruption Watch said whistle-blowers “who put themselves at risk to expose corruption… deserve a better deal than they have received to date”.
The commission recommended that the anonymity of the whistle-blower should be protected, be provided with adequate physical protection, and the protection must extend to an indemnity from civil and criminal liability.
Corruption Watch has called for consideration of compensation for whistle-blowers, and greater whistle-blower support.
The organisation also calls for an amendment of the Protected Disclosures Act, the “proposed establishment of an agency to provide whistle-blowers with legal, financial and mental health support, and a push for criminal sanctions against those found guilty of intimidating whistle-blowers”.