Anti-Corruption Strategy by Minister of Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

11 June 2012
Chairperson: Ms Nlhengethwa D (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Minister outlined the progress made in strengthening the Anti-Corruption Inspectorate since the last engagement with the Committee. The turnaround strategy indicated the need for a different approach in the fight against corruption in order to restore peoples’ confidence in government. The Anti-Corruption Inspectorate (ACI) had been put in place but it was problematic as it was modelled to be an entity that could do forensic audits. An impression was created that the Inspectorate would have investigative powers and even stretching to conducting forensic investigations, an understanding that could not be legally validated. As a result whenever the Inspectorate had to provide an account of their activities, it was revealed they would always produce generalised reports that they too could not defend. This was so as they would always talk to secondary information that they would not have been party to the establishment thereof.

The Department undertook to the Portfolio Committee during the Strategic Planning Session last year and at other encounters to reviewing the whole concept of fighting corruption through the Inspectorate. The Department sought to consider its role as a facilitator of intergovernmental relations, to also do so in the fight against corruption. It would not multiply the already established network of corruption-busting instruments but seek a mechanism to participate cooperatively in the roll-out of the existing instruments in the spirit of cooperative governance, and facilitate the roll-out of these at all the municipalities. The Department was therefore presenting a progress report in the implementation of this initiative which was “work-in-progress” since there was a line-up of entities to engage with as part of the implementation. The ACI would not exist as a stand-alone entity but operate as a strategic instrument to promote cooperative governance through harmonising the operationalisation of six instruments:
▪ Public Service Anti-Corruption Unit (PSACU)
▪ Multi-Agency Working Group (MAWG)
▪ National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF)
▪ Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on the fight against Corruption
▪ Special Investigating Unit (SIU)
▪ Presidential Anti-corruption Hotline.

The AIC would deal with issues of coordination guided among other things, by the following policy and legislative provisions: Protected Disclosures Act, Anti-Corruption Act, Anti-Corruption Strategy, Public Sector Ethics and Integrity Framework, Presidential Pronouncements and Local Government Anti-corruption Strategy. The fight against corruption was one of the five key strategic priorities of the Inspectorate and in this area it would give priority to the 23 identified districts, the 105 associated municipalities as well as the 100 traditional communities corresponding with the chosen municipalities. The Inspectorate would also ensure that Ethics Officers were designated at all COGTA offices as well as municipalities with the view of effective coordination at all local government establishments. As part of advocacy work, the Inspectorate would intensify public education and awareness to encourage communities to report corrupt activities in their municipalities. The Minister concluded the presentation by stating that in order to succeed in rooting out corruption, it was always necessary to have a dedicated focus to deal with such issues. The Anti-Corruption Inspectorate provided that mechanism for effective coordination across the three spheres.

The Committee asked when the Inspectorate would be up and running as the Minister had indicated that this was work in progress. The Committee stated that municipal officers found doing wrong should be jailed instead of being shifted between municipalities as this encouraged others. A DA member said he was not hopeful that this was the medicine that would stop the scourge of corruption. Lastly the Committee asked who would appoint Ethics Officers. Would they be appointed by Municipal Managers and if so how would they oversee the appointing authority?

Meeting report

Anti-Corruption Strategy of Department of Cooperative Governance
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Richard Baloyi, briefed the Committee on the Anti-Corruption Strategy. The Minister outlined the progress made in strengthening the Anti-Corruption Inspectorate since the last engagement with the Committee. The turnaround strategy indicated the need for a different approach in the fight against corruption in order to restore peoples’ confidence in government. The Anti-Corruption Inspectorate (ACI) had been put in place but it was problematic because it was modelled to be an entity that could do forensic audit. An impression was created that the Inspectorate would have investigative powers – even stretching up to conducting forensic investigations, an understanding that could not be legally validated. As a result whenever the Inspectorate had to provide an account of their activities, it was revealed they would always produce generalised reports that they too could not defend. This was so because they would always talk to secondary information that they would not have been party to the establishment thereof.

The Department undertook to the Portfolio Committee during the Strategic Planning Session last year and at other encounters to review the whole concept of fighting corruption through the Inspectorate. The Department sought to consider its role as a facilitator of intergovernmental relations, to also do so in the fight against corruption. It would not multiply the already established network of corruption-busting instruments but seek a mechanism to participate cooperatively in the roll-out of the existing instruments in the spirit of cooperative governance, and facilitate the roll-out of these at all the municipalities. The Department was therefore presenting a progress report in the implementation of this initiative which was “work-in-progress” since there was a line-up of entities to engage with as part of the implementation. The ACI would not exist as a stand-alone entity but operate as a strategic instrument to promote cooperative governance through harmonising the operationalisation of six instruments:
▪ Public Service Anti-Corruption Unit (PSACU)
▪ Multi-Agency Working Group (MAWG)
▪ National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF)
▪ Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on the fight against Corruption
▪ Special Investigating Unit (SIU)
▪ Presidential Anti-corruption Hotline.

Under the Public Service Anti-Corruption Unit (PSACU), the Inspectorate in the spirit of cooperative governance would mobilise actors at the Provincial and National levels to adhere to the work and reports of the PSACU that operates under the leadership of the Department of Public Service and Administration (refer to presentation for its objectives) and would further provide information for the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to provide quarterly reports to the President’s Coordinating Council (PCC) comprising of National Ministers and the centre of governance, the Premiers and SALGA. In addition the Inspectorate would customise the Unit to the environment of local government, in that it would pursue the same objectives through the same activities in dealing with issues at all the municipalities that the Unit did for provincial and national government departments.

The Multiple-Agency Working Group (MAWG) was a corruption-fighting instrument under the leadership of the Department of Finance and dealt with supply chain-related questions. The work of the Inspectorate here would be the same as that given to the Public Service Anti-Corruption Unit. Under the National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF) [which was a forum created as a resolution of the summit that adopted a National Anti-Corruption Strategy and its main actors comprised of Government, Business and Civil Society, with the Public Service Commission (PSC) acting as the Secretariat of the Forum], COGTA through the Inspectorate would work closely with the PSC, so that implementation coordination could be consolidated to local government level.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on the fight against Corruption was coordinated by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and through the Inspectorate. COGTA would actively participate in the secretariat and contribute to ensure effective implementation, and customise the implementation at local government level. It was in the agenda for consultation with SALGA that a similar structure be established consisting of the Ministry and SALGA, meant to expedite the implementation of efforts at anti-corruption activities. COGTA was finalising discussions with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) for defined partnership between the Department and the SIU that would deal with issues of proclamations for anti-corruption investigations and conditions for the management of the investigation work, the effective role of the Tribunal and the management of the reports. The Inspectorate would play a critical role on this matter, advising the Ministry of COGTA and of course forming part of the quarterly reports to the PCC and Cabinet. The Inspectorate would coordinate responses and compliance with issues of corruption raised through the Presidential Anti-corruption Hotline which affected municipalities. This would include tracking implementation per case reported, and these reports would form part of the quarterly PCC and Cabinet.

The AIC would deal with issues of coordination guided among other things, by the following policy and legislative provisions: Protected Disclosures Act, Anti-Corruption Act, Anti-Corruption Strategy, Public Sector Ethics and Integrity Framework, Presidential Pronouncements and Local Government Anti-corruption Strategy. The fight against corruption was one of the five key strategic priorities of the Inspectorate and in this area it would give priority to the 23 identified districts, the 105 associated municipalities as well as the 100 traditional communities corresponding with the chosen municipalities. The Inspectorate would also ensure that Ethics Officers were designated at all COGTA offices as well as municipalities with a view of effective coordination at all the local government establishments. As part of advocacy work, the Inspectorate would intensify public education and awareness to encourage communities to report corrupt activities in their municipalities. The Minister concluded the presentation by stating that in order to succeed in rooting out corruption, it was always necessary to have a dedicated focus to deal with such issues. The Anti-Corruption Inspectorate provided that mechanism for effective coordination across the three spheres.

Discussion
Mr J Steenhuizen (DA) asked how the results and accountability of the Anti-Corruption Inspectorate would be measured.

The Minister replied that the Inspectorate was accountable to the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Mr Steenhuizen asked when the Inspectorate would be up and running as the Minister had indicated that this was work in progress.

The Minister replied that the Department was not creating a new thing. The Inspectorate was there. The Department was merely sharpening it as weaknesses had been identified. Work in progress did not mean that things were static. It was work in progress in terms of what the Department had promised the Committee at the strategic planning session. Some of the progress that had been recorded was working with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

Mr Steenhuizen stated that municipal officers found “doing wrong” should be jailed instead of being shifted between municipalities as this encouraged others.

The Minister replied that the Department was working with different entities to ensure wrongdoers were prosecuted. The capacity to investigate was in the partnership. The Department was building these partnerships because it was unable to do forensic audits. It was correct to think that the Department would only be seen as fighting corruption if people were seen in jail or dismissed. As COGTA was at the centre and was not reporting on convictions happening in other units on a day to day basis, it was easy it think that nothing was happening. The Department would now be giving a report on a quarterly basis.

Mr Steenhuizen said he was not hopeful that this was the medicine that would stop the scourge of corruption.

The Minister replied that the strategy presented would be carried out and when it was done, the Department would succeed in fighting corruption.

Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC) stated that the Anti-Corruption Strategy had been discussed for some time but if one looked at Buffalo City R114 million was initially misapplied and the current Auditor General report was indicating that R2 billion had now been misapplied. How long would members sit and discuss strategies?

The Minister replied that the Department shared the concerns of the member. The point had been noted and the Department was committing to come back to the Committee with a report. The Buffalo City situation should not be generalised.

Nkosi Mandela stated that wrongdoers were not sentenced and money was not recovered. What was the Anti-Corruption team for if there was nothing being done?

The Minister replied that it was true that a lot was going wrong. The Members did not have to jump on the bandwagon and conclude that a lot was going wrong but they had the responsibility to understand what informed these wrong things.

Mr P Smith (IFP) stated that it was not clear what the inspectorate would do. The Department’s attempt to coordinate what others were doing was a waste of time.

The Minister replied that the role of the Department was clear. The instruments outlined existed but the Department had a role to coordinate and support these entities. It was therefore not a waste of time.

Mr Smith asked if the Department would need an amendment to legislation to get Ethics Officers in municipalities.

The Minister replied that the issue of Ethics Officers was an important point. At COGTA national level there would be the designating of people who are dealing with corruption fighting, to do the work of Ethics Officers. It was therefore not a question of appointing.

The Acting Chairperson asked who would appoint Ethics Officers. Would they be appointed by Municipal Managers and if so how would they oversee the appointing authority?

The Minister replied that the fears of the Acting Chairperson were in order. If the Department got a commitment from South African Local Government Association there would be challenges but these would be addressed from time to time. The Department would find ways of dealing with this.

The Acting Chairperson asked if there were time frames set for the Inspectorate and whether it had already been set up.

The Minister replied that with strategic engagement with the existing agencies, the Department would report on a quarterly basis to the Committee.

The Minister concluded by stating that the Department appreciated the concerns by the Members but the Department was making a request to allow its work to continue. In turn the Committee should hold the Department accountable over the approach presented.

The meeting was adjourned.


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