Maverick Citizen

GAUTENG ANTI-CORRUPTION REPORT

‘It’s not your turn to eat,’ says Premier Makhura to organised crime

‘It’s not your turn to eat,’ says Premier Makhura to organised crime
Gauteng Premier David Makhura. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

Yesterday, as a show of strength against corruption, the Gauteng Premier assembled a powerful audience to launch the report on ‘State of Ethics, Integrity Management Systems and Anti-corruption Strategy in Gauteng’. 

Present in the room were seven MECs, the head of the SIU, Adv Andy Mothibi, as well as representatives from the State Security Agency, the Office of the Auditor-General, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and the Public Protector.

Also in attendance were members of the Gauteng Ethics Advisory Council (GEAC), a civil society body appointed by the Premier in 2017 to “provide independent oversight, advice, advocacy, and civil society mobilisation on fighting corruption and promoting integrity in the Gauteng city region.” It is chaired by the former Auditor-General Terence Nombembe. 

The GEAC launched a parallel biannual report on its own activities and assessment of progress being made to build systems against corruption in the Province. The report is thin on detail, but overall, GEAC seems positive in assessment of the steps being taken by the province.

On Monday 23 August, Babita Deokaran, a Gauteng Health Department Official, was gunned down outside her home in Mondeor, Johannesburg just after 8:00 in the morning.
(Photo: Facebook)

In his speech, Makhura started by dedicating the report to Babita Deokoran, the murdered Gauteng Health department official. He spent the first 10 minutes of his speech emphasising the magnitude of the struggle against the “organised crime syndicates” that seek to fleece public resources in South Africa’s most well-funded province. Holding up a copy of It’s Our Turn to Eat, Michela Wrong’s book on endemic corruption in Kenya, he lamented: “They are organised; they try to break systems and people you put in place to counter corruption; they kill…” 

The Premier acknowledged the courage of individual whistleblowers (and mentioned that two other public servants in the Department of Human Settlements had also died under suspicious circumstances). He talked of coming across “an atmosphere of fear amongst some government officials in finance who are scared” and hinted at attempts to intimidate members of the Integrity Management Unit that is based in the Premier’s office. 

However, Makhura emphasised that individual courage was not enough, “it needs to be accompanied by systems that are fool-proof” and needs “solid institutional and stakeholder partnership”.

On the surface at least, Makhura’s war on corruption seems serious. The nearly 50-page report (it’s not unfortunately online yet) provides important and detailed information that suggests a rigorous multi-pronged attack on corruption is underway. 

Amongst other things it provides tables with data collated over five years on:

  • Progress on investigations by the SIU in the province;
  • New proclamations that have been requested by the SIU, including one into the Department of Infrastructure Development projects in five hospitals as a result of allegations by whistleblowers;
  • Progress on further investigating material irregularities identified by the Auditor-General;
  • The status of recommendations arising from 338 forensic investigations carried out;
  • Status of 99 recommendations and remedial actions made by the PSC and Public Protector.

The report is the first of its kind for a Provincial government, which has also introduced other important innovations such as the Provincial Forensic Audits Division and Integrity Management Unit, both located in the Premier’s office, as well as the GEAC. 

Recognising this in the course of the morning the approach of the Gauteng government received a stamp of approval from the AG, PSC, SIU, PP and various civil society organisations for its commitment. Adv Mothibi, for example, described the formal secondment of SIU officials to the Province “a model that could be replicated in other provinces. We have seen the results.”

Actions speak louder than promises

Coming to the hard facts about consequences and action, Makhura reported that 517 disciplinary processes against Gauteng officials related to allegations of corruption had been completed and amongst them, 147 criminal cases opened. 

“We can do better if the criminal justice system does its part,” said Makhura.

He also reported that lifestyle audits on all MECs have now been completed by the State Security Agency (SSA) and would be reported on “in a short while”. How long a “short while” would be is unclear though, as Makhura made exactly the same promise in December 2020. On this issue, the report states that the outcome of MEC’s lifestyle audits will be “released separately after due consultations are completed.”

What exactly this means is important, but opaque.

In addition, Makhura reported 99.8% compliance with financial disclosure forms required of officials in Senior Management Services (SMS) but recognised that this is not a fool-proof system. “Often people hide their assets”, he said, “which is why we need lifestyle audits.” He also commented on how some officials “who are movers and shakers in every tender” avoid promotion to senior management positions to avoid the greater scrutiny that comes with higher office.

The vetting of senior officials is also advanced, and in Gauteng has been extended beyond just the SMS to include all Supply Chain Management (SCM) officials. Of concern, Makhura reported that 84 out 757 senior officials were dragging their feet with agreeing to be vetted. 

“When you are reluctant to be vetted you are communicating a message to us,” said Makhura, noting that this was a particular problem in the Health Department and that he had met last week with the MEC and HOD to address this. “They are authorised to remove officials who refuse to comply.”

On this issue, the report states: “The 11% of SMS officials who are not complying [with vetting requirements] should be red-flagged and the first to undergo lifestyle reports.”

According to Makhura, three departments, in particular, raise red flags. This is borne out in the report. In the health department, only 44% of certain categories of prescribed employee made their statutory financial disclosures in 2020/21 and 34 of its senior managers have not applied to be vetted; 77 of its employees have been identified as doing unlawful business with the state. The other two red flag departments are Education and Infrastructure Development.

In conclusion, Makhura said “We are putting in place the basics but we still have a long way to go. A major area of weakness is resolution — taking action. People want to see consequences.” DM/MC

Editor Note: After a long morning of talking heads, the launch allotted no time to media questions to the Premier or the GEAC. Certain pertinent matters, such as the reason for ceasing publication of their Covid-19 expenditure disclosure reports in January 2021 were thus unexplained. This directly contradicts the spirit of transparency and accountability the province is promoting. However, in a brief discussion, Makhura told me that it is still the Province’s plan to publish these reports — when, he did not make clear — but that problems had been discovered by the Auditor-General with the accuracy of some of the figures they contained. This is not a sufficient explanation, particularly as the reports made it possible to independently analyse expenditure and contracts almost as it happened and was the basis for exposing some of the Covid-19 corruption in Gauteng. A full on the record explanation is still required. – Mark Heywood

 

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Alan Watkins says:

    “Holding up a copy of It’s Our Turn to Eat, Michela Wrong’s book on endemic corruption in Kenya, he lamented: “They are organised; they try to break systems and people you put in place to counter corruption; they kill…” ”

    THIS MASSIVE MISDIRECTION. This excerpt summarises succinctly what the book is about…….”Michela Wrong tells the story of John Githongo, a journalist and civil rights campaigner who, in 2003, was co-opted by the Kenya government to be its corruption buster. Three years later Githongo was on the run from the Kenyan government. He pitched up on Wrong’s doorstep in London looking for a bolt hole, bringing with him a dossier of evidence implicating several government ministers in arms-deal corruption.”
    This all about corruption by government ministers and party officials, not the construction and mining mafia types and other criminals on whom Makhura is trying to focus attention. Rather look in the mirror, look at your colleagues in tyour meeting rooms, and your party bosses.

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