Fighting corruption - secure an investigative unit's freedom

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Vusi Pikoli SPW.jpgOut of 3134 public service irregularities reported to investigative units before April 2011, only 13% were investigated.

Vusi Pikoli attributes this to "an absence of a clear and comprehensive strategy to fight corruption." He offers the number of corruption-fighting units as evidence of this absence.

South Africa has the Police Service (SAPS), the Hawks, the Asset forfeiture Unit, the Financial Intelligence Centre, National Treasury, and the DBSA's anti-corruption unit, among others. However, Pikoli argues that while all these bodies have increased the amount of investigations, the amount of prosecutions is still few and the convictions even fewer.

“None of the institutions [listed above] have a mandate to inform or educate the public on corruption. And none are institutionally independent,” he says.

Speaking at UNISA in late April, Pikoli presented the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution’s (CASAC) proposal for the formation of an independent agency to investigate acts of corruption and how the agency's freedom would be guaranteed.

Fighting corruption, says Pikoli, involves avoiding petty politics and rhetoric, and having a firm resolve. However, "the Hawks are not sufficiently independent, and the Special Investigations Unit requires Presidential approval before it can exercise its mandate."

He argues that independence would safeguard an investigative body from influence and would enable impartial investigations as well as prevent victimisation of those that report corruption.

For an anti-corruption unit to be effective its mandate must be enforcement and referral for prosecution. And it must be able to educate ("no institute is mandated to do this").

"It is the state's obligation to ensure that people's rights are respected. An abuse of entrusted power is bad governance," he said.

CASAC proposes an agency that would engage in a broad and committed fight to eradicate corruption, as well as an educational campaign to society on the results of corruption.

Its internal processes would include a committee to decide when to close investigations of corruption, and the manner of appointing officials would include civil society. An integral role would be ensuring the integrity, competence and independence of its head, concluded Pikoli.

Dealing with irregular procurement activities is on the agenda at SmartProcurement World 2011. Hosted at Gallagher Convention Centre on October 11-13, delegates will hear more than 40 prominent speakers and rub shoulders with over 300 peers in Procurement and Supply Management. Email events@smartprocurement to take advantage of our early bird special.

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