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PHUMLA WILLIAMS: SA's new anti-corruption strategy, NACS, explained

OPINION

Corruption is a societal scourge that continues to spark robust debate and cause anxiety because it is a huge risk to government’s service-delivery programme. It deprives deserving communities of much-needed services.

According to Transparency International, South Africa’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score was 44/100, showing a slight improvement from the 2018 score of 43/100. This rating confirms that the country still has a long way to go in its concerted efforts to deal decisively with corruption. Corruption manifests itself in all facets of society and our country has to deal with it meaningfully to achieve economic growth and prosperity.

One of the detrimental effects of corruption is its capacity to hinder development and progress. It thrives in weak governance structures and manifests itself in unethical people. Unless it is nipped in the bud, corruption has the potential to reverse the positive gains of the last 26 years of our democracy.

The country’s National Development Plan: Vision 2030 envisions a corruption-free society that subscribes to the values of integrity, transparency and accountability. In its drive towards this vision, South Africa became a signatory to all the international instruments that seek to fight corruption, fraud and illicit trading.

The National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) approved by Cabinet two weeks ago is one of the interventions that seek to strengthen the fight against corruption. It rallies everyone towards a common goal in the fight against corruption. The strategy is the culmination of intense society-wide collaboration that commits business, government and civil society to uphold professionalism, ethical and anti-corruption practices. This initiative aims to establish a national consensus on how we tackle the problem of corruption as a nation.

The NACS document contains the strategy itself, the implementation plan, and the monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework. The strategy comprises six critical interlinked pillars that direct all citizens towards a corruption-free society. One of the pillars is to promote and encourage an active citizenry that understands that whistle-blowing is nothing but a patriotic responsibility. It advocates for individuals or institutions to behave and act in a transparent and ethical manner.

The pillars are applicable to government, business and civil society. This collaborative intervention would help improve the score of the current CPI. This will only be possible if all of us strive for a better South Africa and continent.

To measure and monitor risks, an Interim NACS Advisory Council has been proposed to serve as an independent body that would oversee the implementation plan for the next two years. One of its assignments is to work towards a legislated structure that will be accountable to Parliament. The proposed legislated Advisory Council will comprise business, government and civil-society representatives. Importantly, it will be resourced with the capacity to monitor all corruption-fighting activities, including advocacy, accountability and consequence intervention to deal with those who do not adhere to clean governance.

The adoption of the NACS and the collaborative work that aims to ensure its success clearly show that the country attaches great importance to the rule of law and to rooting out corruption.

While law-enforcement agencies and other arms of government remain at the forefront of combating corruption, ordinary South Africans have a critical role to play in preventing it from manifesting in our society. Corruption requires prevention and active anti-corruption practices from all citizens.

Although the new strategy will give more impetus to the ongoing work to address any weaknesses in programmes designed to fight corruption, the country has various other laws, policies and programmes capable of rooting out corruption in society.

Despite the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996 providing a framework for good governance, accountability and the rule of law, there are clearly some systematic gaps being exploited by unscrupulous people for their own selfish benefit.

The NACS encourages the prevention of corruption in all sectors of society through good governance, transparency and ethical behaviour. The adoption of the strategy does not replace other efforts and programmes aimed at stamping out corruption.

Following his inauguration in 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa pronounced his intention to deal decisively with corruption within our society as one of the top priorities of government. He outlined the need to strengthen the key levers of fighting corruption, such as the filling of critical posts within the security cluster and broadening existing corruption-busting institutions and setting up new ones. In this regard, great progress is visible.

By working together as government and civil society, we will be making a significant contribution to tackling the scourge of corruption and in the process, unleash sustained quality service delivery and development in the country. Through our collective efforts, let us make all acts of corruption despicable and ensure that all perpetrators have no place to hide from the law.

Phumla Williams is the Director-General of Government Communication and Information System. You can follow them on Twitter on @mirriamp

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