In countries with endemic corruption, such as South Africa, governing elites loot because they don’t see it as wrong – and because they get away with it. Consequence management and the political will to tackle corruption could potentially make the difference, and win back the trust of voters and investors.
President Cyril Ramapahosa recently released a scathing letter to members of the African National Congress (ANC) lambasting his party members for their corrupt activities. But this may have come a little too late.
When the Covid-19 pandemic reached our shores and eventually our province of Gauteng, we knew it would be one of the biggest challenges we would ever face, and we knew we had to do what we could with what we had to help curb the spread of the virus.
Little did we know that amidst this disaster, the ANC would choose to enrich itself through the creation of a new internal economy, by themselves and for themselves, totally ignorant of the battle for survival playing out right in front of them, where thousands of lives and livelihoods were being threatened.
While every effort has to be made to grow our struggling economy, there is a critical precondition of first fixing our public finances.
With an additional R4-billion added to the Gauteng provincial government budget for the 2020/21 financial year, and total departmental reprioritisation of R7.9-billion within existing baselines, the DA, as the official opposition, was ready to give this government a fighting chance, as our assessment was that we, as the Gauteng province, would be less affected by Covid-19 than other provinces.
Covid-19 amplified existing challenges in education (inequalities with respect to access to quality education), health (structural issues), agriculture (lack of adequate government support) and roads and transport (road implementation and maintenance backlogs).
Our biggest concern would be with regard to the larger-than-expected grant reductions to urban municipalities, which were supposed to have more capacity to offset the effects of the cuts by relying on their own revenue sources.
This also proved to be disastrous as the lockdown resulted in many people getting paid only a fraction of their income, or not earning anything at all, making it impossible for them to pay their municipal debts.
Although R11-billion was added through local government equitable share nationally, the Fiscal Finance Commission was of the view that it should rather have been allocated via conditional grants, and that conditions had to be attached to allocations in order to ensure funds were not used for salaries and non-Covid-19 related expenditure.
Going out on tender was suspended, mostly due to physical distancing, but there were indeed internal processes that were approved and had to be followed. Record-keeping of the deliberations of all bid adjudication committees (BACs) remained paramount. So, minutes would still be key for an HOD to approve any tender. Now the question that begs an answer – did the BACs record all their meetings during lockdown, as this would become vital evidence that the Gauteng provincial government remained serious about preventing irregular tender processes, especially in the midst of the pandemic?
The real test for a transparent procurement process follows right after the tender was awarded, and the following questions can be asked in terms of documents that need to be published – if the tender process was indeed “open”:
- Public Bid Specifications should be kept accessible for the duration of a contract;
- Publishing the names of companies that won tenders with company registration details;
- Publishing of the delivery plan;
- Publishing what was considered before payment was made (criteria) – basically, a paper trail; and
- Publishing extension variations and deviations, for example the deviations recorded between 26 March and 16 April 2020 by seven departments already.
The Western Cape procurement disclosure report details all personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement and expenditure in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in a regular and standardised report that is made available on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis to the public.
Other proactive support and compliance measures implemented by the Western Cape to mitigate procurement risks include:
- The establishment of a Covid-19 coordination function within the Provincial Treasury for the Finance and Supply Chain Management (SCM) cluster across their government to ensure financial governance procurement and financial management requirements are met in terms of the Disaster Management Act and its regulations;
- Establishment of a Central Procurement Advisory Committee to guide emergency and lockdown procurement;
- Provision made for tracking and monitoring commitments and expenditure in respect of performance of Financial Systems Enablement Perspective as they relate to SCM; and
- Ensuring that the necessary controls are in place to ensure credibility of information for management, surveillance and disclosure purposes.
In countries with endemic corruption, such as SA, governing elites loot because they don’t see it as wrong – and because they get away with it.
Consequence management and political will to tackle corruption could potentially make the difference and win back the trust of voters and investors, as it would restore integrity and confirm responsible leadership. Accountability in utilising funds earmarked for the Covid-19 pandemic would be of paramount importance during the lockdown period.
Where to from here?
We find ourselves in a deep recession, with SA at a crossroads. A perfect storm of bad governance, economic policy indecisiveness, Covid-19 corruption and credit rating downgrades.
Will lies, deceit and corruption be our history?
In the words of President Cyril Ramaphosa in an open letter to party structures, he writes: “There are some of us who have clearly forgotten their oath or consider it irrelevant. But we have seen how ANC politicians facing corruption allegations will no doubt be invited back because the door appears to always be open for them.” DM