African Union Anti-Corruption Convention: Department briefing; Committee Programme Planning

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PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
16 March 2005
AFRICAN UNION ANTI-CORRUPTION CONVENTION: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING; COMMITTEE PROGRAMME PLANNING


Chairperson:
Mr P Gomomo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption
Comparative Analysis of the UN Anti-Corruption Strategy

SUMMARY
The Department briefed the Committee on the African Union (AU) Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. This Convention focused on ways to enhance the roles of the media, civil society, and the private sector in battling corruption. Its goal was to create a continental approach to preventing corruption and to demonstrating these to the international community. Members had concerns about how the AU would enforce the new standards, and what would happen if a state failed to meet expectations. There were also concerns about whether the AU Protocol would supercede the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol.

MINUTES

African Union Anti-Corruption briefing
Ms Ishana Bodasine (Department anti-corruption specialist) briefed the Committee on the African Union (AU) Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, held on 11 July 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique. This convention had been preceded by various preparatory and experts’ meetings in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and included aspects of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol Against Corruption. Participation of media and civil society, collaboration between member states, and international co-operation had been key features of the discussions. A database of anti-corruption Ministers and experts for Africa had also been established.

She highlighted several articles from the convention. Article 5 made it possible for citizens to report corruption without fear of reprisal; sought to raise public awareness; and strengthened internal accounting, audit, and follow-up systems. Article 6 criminalised the laundering of the proceeds of corruption. Greater access to information (Article 9); new regulations of the funding of political parties (Article 10); and increased participation by the private sector (Article 11), were noted as "cutting edge initiatives". The convention further discussed the role of civil society, and set forth initiatives to enable their participation. Bank secrecy should not be an obstacle to investigation and prosecution.

Areas of concern included the jurisdiction to prosecute offenders outside a state’s borders, new regulations for extradition, and whether this convention would supersede that of the SADC (which it would not). She concluded that this convention was indicative of a continental approach to battling corruption, and sought to enlighten other states about the steps taken by Africa to address the problem of corruption.

Discussion
Mr S Simmons (NNP) asked for copies of the notes from the proceedings.
Minister G Fraser-Moleketi assured that notes would be provided, but that currently the State Law Advisors were studying them.

Mr R Baloyi (ANC) commented that South Africa needed to be clear about its position and compliance. Member states needed to sharpen their legislative instruments to deal with matters of corruption, especially in cases where there were no obvious loopholes. He asked what percentage of African states needed to ratify the convention, and what the implications of this were.

Ms Bodasine anticipatd that member states would meet all expectations, and noted South Africa’s extensive process of ratification. Fifteen AU states needed to ratify the convention, which would take effect 30 days after the final state ratified it. The convention would only apply to those states that had ratified it

Mr K Ngoma (Department Deputy Director-General) noted that many of the issues raised were technical issues, and that it was a ‘normal process’ not to discuss them extensively.

Mr Baloyi asked what would happen if there was collusion between a state and an individual, what member states could do, and what tools the AU had at its disposal to resolve such conflicts.

Ms Bodasine responded that problems could arise if one state felt another was not meeting the convention’s standards. In that case, the AU’s resolution mechanisms would come into force.

Minister Fraser-Moleketi said that from 22-23 March, there would be a National Anti-corruption Conference, and that South Africa needed to identify a common campaign. South Africa had done well in battling corruption and needed to use the organ of state to communicate its achievements to the country, as the government was too ‘inward-looking’. This would be the first conference since 1999.

The Chairperson thanked Minister Fraser-Moleketi and commented that they had not yet received an official invitation.

Committee Programme
The Chairperson wanted all Members to be invited to the National Anti-corruption Summit, but said that the invitation had thus far only been extended to the Provincial Premiers and the Chairpersons of Portfolio Committees.

The Committee then discussed their oversight tour to seven provinces from 28 – 31 March. Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) noted that he would not be available because of his commitments to the Labour Portfolio Committee.

Mr Baloyi noted that at the 8 March Committee meeting, there had been a briefing on the Public Protector’s Report. There had been quite a time lapse since it was written in 2002, and some worrying areas had already been addressed.

Mr Baloyi commented that the main issue in the Public Protector’s Report report were the delays and blockages in communication between the public and the departments, as well as between the departments themselves. There was a need to visit linked department and trace chains of communication to see where errors were being made. There had been severe communication problems in the school-building collaboration between the Departments of Education, Public Works, Water, Home Affairs and Social Services.

He noted that the establishment of multi-purpose community centres was an attempt to fix communication problems. He stressed the importance of having "one-stop service" where no member of the public was sent back. Members had to ask the right oversight questions in order to help achieve that standard. He also noted problems of discipline in school and hospitals, and informed Members that they would be doing surprise, casual visits to hospitals and schools to see how they really operated. Several Members noted that the schools were closed for holidays during the time of the trip.

Mr Mzondeki cited issues around Identity (ID) Books as another example of communication failures. When a member of the public went to gety an ID, they received neither the book nor a reason, which forced the person to then go to another office. Language barriers and lack of interpreters was also a problem. He suggested that this should be studied o the hospital visits as well.

Mr Baloyi raised that all Committees had been told to decrease their budgets considerably for 2005/06. The Chairperson said the Committee would continue to run on the same budget until they were forced to cut it.

The Chairperson then addressed the series of upcoming international conferences, and announced that there would be six Members going to each conference. Three would be ANC members, two DA members, and the smaller parties would alternate sending the sixth Member. He asked Members to submit a list of nominations.

The meeting was adjourned.

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