Corruption Watch, the civil society group, has published its annual report for 2020. The report highlights the rampant corruption which plagued the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. Aside from issues relating to procurement and the distribution of essential goods and services, there were shocking reports of police and SANDF brutality and abuse of power. All of this led to Corruption Watch recording the second-highest number of corruption reports since 2012.
A total of 4,780 incidents of corruption were reported in 2020, forming part of the just under 33,000 reports of corruption received by the organisation since 2012. On average 11 complaints were received daily from across South Africa, using available online and digital platforms to highlight the ongoing acts of corruption in both the public and private sectors.
As is expected, the majority of reports came from Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.
“While it’s pleasing to report that most of Corruption Watch’s key campaigns have continued throughout the lockdown periods and the volume of reports received by us have increased, it is with anger and sadness that we also have to report that the corrupt took advantage of the public health crisis to loot the procurement necessitated by Covid and even stooped as low as to steal from the various relief programmes,” said David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch.
The most frequent forms of corruption during the year were maladministration (17%), procurement corruption (16%) and fraud (15%).
This corruption included problems such as compliance issues, procurement irregularities, soliciting of kickbacks, and fraudulent activities in various state institutions, agencies and departments, as well as businesses.
11% of reports allege corruption in the South African Police Service, 6% point to corruption in schools, 4% refer to corruption in the health sector, and 3% point to corruption in the awarding of driver’s licenses.
Police and South African National Defence Force
Corruption Watch stated that 11% of reports it received alleged corruption in the South African Police Service (SAPS).
The most commonly reported type of corruption included dereliction of duty (29%), abuse of power (28%) and bribery (27%).
“The continued prominence of SAPS-related corruption reports can be attributed not only to the policing environment in the context of the Covid-19 National State of Disaster and lockdown regulations, but also to the Corruption Watch project that has for several years highlighted police abuse and mismanagement,” the group said.
“As a country, we continue to experience increasing levels of crime and corruption, which is aided and abetted by the very institutions that were set up to mitigate and combat these issues,” it said.
The group added that the SAPS is often described as the most corrupt institution in South Africa – citing the Global Corruption Barometer (2019) and the Corruption Watch’s Youth Perceptions survey (2020).
“Its apartheid-era culture of impunity, brutality and abuse of power has found its way into democratic South Africa, reducing public confidence in the police service and tarnishing the courageous efforts of those dedicated police officers who risk their lives daily to make our country a safer place.”
The Healthcare sector
The group also received numerous reports relating to corruption in the health sector during 2020, with 149 of such cases received.
“The weakened healthcare system in South Africa has been a breeding ground for corruption for years,” it said.
“Under Covid-19, while visits to healthcare facilities may have been reduced, the cases of corruption featured in the Corruption Watch reports centred on procurement corruption, employment corruption, and fraud, counting for 21%, 15% and 11% respectively.”
The group however said that corruption in the healthcare sector has been brewing for years.
“Decades of misappropriation and theft of resources, procurement corruption, and bribery were exposed when our health facilities could not contend with the vast numbers of people needing treatment for Covid-19.”