While South Africa saw a marginal improvement in its score on Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), the country needs to do much more to address the scourge of corruption.
That’s the word from Corruption Watch, following the release of the latest index on Thursday. The organisation is part of the global coalition against corruption.
South Africa secured a score of 44 in 2019 compared to 43 the year before, which ranks the country 70th in the world out of 180 nations that are part of the index.
Corruption Watch said South Africa’s score still “places it squarely amongst countries deemed to have a serious corruption problem, and to not be doing enough in their anti-corruption efforts”.
Considered to be the leading global indicator of public sector corruption, the index ranks countries and territories on perceived levels of corruption in the public sector according to experts and business people. It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
More than two-thirds of the countries assessed scored below 50, with Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis reiterating the organisation’s call for action against corruption.
Visible progress needed
“The South African public has made it clear that until there is visible progress in prosecuting those responsible for corruption and until there is visible improvement in the ability of state-owned enterprises to deliver their vital services, government’s promises to combat corruption will not be trusted,” he said.
Lewis also raised concerns about the lack of action around the Political Party Funding Act. “The failure, after a year, to bring the [act] into operation does little to inspire confidence in the strength of government’s will to tackle corruption.”
“The toxic influence of money in politics would also be exposed and constrained were we to commence with promised lifestyle audits of politicians and public officials, to introduce more stringent application of regulations governing asset and income declarations and to require companies to identify their beneficial owners,” he added.
Campaign finance a weak area
Corruption Watch noted that the latest CPI report highlights the importance of the “relationship between money, political power and corruption”. It said additional analysis showed how corruption is more pervasive in countries where “big money” can flow freely into electoral campaigns.
“Those better performing countries on the CPI tend to have stronger enforcement of campaign finance regulations, while conversely those countries with lower scores either lack such regulating mechanisms, or, where they do exist, are not sufficiently enforced,” the organisation pointed out.
“Parliament passed South Africa’s Political Party Funding Act in January 2019, but the president has yet to bring the act into operation,” it added.
“Unless there is a clear demonstrated political will to enforce key measures and legislation regulating political party funding, as well as to hold internal party members accountable, the perception remains that the country is not doing enough.”
Corruption Watch noted that Transparency International’s report has some useful recommendations for countries needing to reduce corruption and restore trust in political leaders and those in public office.
In addition to closer regulation of political party funding, it recommends measures to:
- Reduce possibilities for special interest involvement in disbursement of budgets and public services;
- Eliminate conflicts of interest;
- Regulate political lobbying and sanction misinformation campaigns; and
- Strengthen protection of whistleblowers, journalists and activists.