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Has SA lost R700bn to corruption?


IOL

01 October 2015 at 2:20pm

Sintha Chiumia and Anim van Wyk

Has SA lost R700 billion to corruption since ’94? Africa Check’s Sintha Chiumia and Anim van Wyk explain why the calculation is wrong.

Durban – It’s been stated as fact that South Africa has lost R700 billion in public money to corruption since the advent of democracy in 1994. But how does one measure the cost of hidden crime?

One of the Unite Against Corruption march organisers and former general secretary of trade union Cosatu, Zwelinzima Vavi, used the R700 billion figure widely. To talk radio show host, Tim Modise, Vavi said: “R700bn could have been used to address the principal challenge of South Africa.”

Vavi also reportedly cited the number to urge Nissan assembly plant workers and a gathering of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa members to join the march.

When he tweeted the R700bn figure, a Twitter user replied: “No ways. Lucky guess?”

Is it a guess or the result of thorough research? Africa Check got out the calculators.

On social media, Unite Against Corruption attributed the claim to the Institute of Internal Auditors. This likely refers to the January launch of the Anti-Intimidation and Ethical Practices Forum, an association of different organisations fighting corruption.

At the event, the forum’s chair and head of the Institute of Internal Auditors South Africa, Claudelle von Eck, reportedly said: “The cost of corruption in the last 20 years… we have lost R700bn.”

Von Eck confirmed to Africa Check she had made the claim, but said she was quoting the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa. The institute’s head, Paul Hoffman, was quoted using the R700bn figure last year. (Updated from R675bn he cited the year before and in 2012.)

But Hoffman passed the buck to Tendersure, a web-based tendering tool, owned by a company called Sentigol.

“(Tendersure) worked that out as a percentage of the DP… 20% of the GDP over the last 20 years works out to that,” Hoffman told Africa Check.

An October 2011 article in Engineering News quoted the head of Sentigol, Werner Coetzee, as saying research by international anti-corruption bodies showed Africa to lose “about 25%” of its gross domestic product (GDP) to corruption.

Coetzee then explained that 25% of South Africa’s GDP of R2 700bn (likely 2010s) came to R675bn and that this figure was potentially lost to corruption.

But he told Africa Check he was misquoted: “I don’t know how anyone would arrive at that number.” The businessman said he once attempted to calculate the cost of corruption in the past 20 years, but gave up because it would “ignore the corruption during apartheid”.

Coetzee didn’t pluck the corruption formula out of thin air, but he got the wrong end of the stick.

Global civil society organisation Transparency International published a handbook called Curbing Corruption in Public Procurement in 2006. The very first paragraph states “damages from corruption” are usually estimated at “between 10% and 25%, and in some cases as high as 40 to 50%” of a country’s public procurement contracts – not its GDP.

Yet the bibliography does not contain any reference to studies showing how this share was arrived at. Africa Check contacted the organisation’s public sector integrity programme head, José María Marín, who said he’d look into it, but we haven’t yet received a response.

Since then the statement has become a tumbleweed claim: rolling along year after year, from one report to another, without source or context, supposedly holding true wherever it goes.

So how did do we end up with “R700bn lost to corruption in South Africa in the last 20 years”? Here is Africa Check’s theory, give or take R5bn:

1. The formula from Transparency International, or the various other organisations that quoted its information, made its way to South African treasury official, Sonwabo Tshoko, who stated in a 2010 presentation: “It has been estimated that R30bn per year, which is 20% of the overall government procurement budget of R150bn, is being lost or is disappearing into a black hole of fraud and corruption.”

(Tshoko has since left and Africa Check could not get hold of him or more information on the calculation via Treasury spokeswoman Phumza Macanda.)

2. South Africa’s then head of the Special Investigating Unit, Willie Hofmeyr, used this information when asked to estimate the cost of corruption in Parliament in October 2011.

According to the minutes, “Hofmeyr responded that it was difficult to do so, but one suggestion by National Treasury was that it might amount to about 20% of the annual procurement budget, or about R25bn a year.”

(Hofmeyr confirmed to Africa Check he got the information from Treasury, but couldn’t remember the exact source.)

3. The head of the Institute for Accountability, Paul Hoffman, attributed the figure of R30bn per year to Hofmeyr in a 2012 conference report. However, it seems that when the time came to present the report, he used R675bn as a total figure lost to corruption since 1994.

A news report said: “Hoffman based the figure of R675bn on government’s admission that the economy loses R30bn a year to corrupt activities. The disclosure elicited visible shock among conference goers.” (A quick calculation shows that R30bn times 18 years is R540bn, not considering inflation.)

So how much has SA really lost to corruption?

The frustrating – and logical – answer is we just can’t say for sure.

Macanda said South Africa’s Treasury does not attempt to calculate the cost of corruption. “Our observation is that people speculate and also tend to use the word corruption when what they are talking about is irregular, unauthorised or wasteful expenditure,” she said.

Africa Check spoke to Hennie van Vuuren, research associate at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) and writer of a 2005 Transparency International country study report on South Africa.

He said the idea that corruption costs 20% (or 10% or 25%) of public procurement came from the assumption that middlemen involved in corruption demanded 8 to 10% of a contract’s value.

“But this differs from transaction to transaction and industry to industry,” he said.

Ways to gauge trends in corruption included perception surveys and tallying detected cases.

Van Vuuren said one could even include illicit outflows – where private companies moved money to tax havens abroad – in the broader ambit of corruption, which was estimated to be in the region of R300bn in 2012 alone.

“Our need to define corruption in monetary terms ignores the much more fundamental costs of corruption – carried by individuals in weakened forms of government,” he said.

The head of governance, crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies, Gareth Newham, told Africa Check “we simply don’t know what the actual amount is because corruption is a crime in which both parties benefit and will seek to hide”.

However, Newham said he thought a “considerable” amount had been lost to corruption “given the large scale of the problem and the high level involvement of our political elite in corruption”.

It’s “impossible to know” how much money South Africa has lost to corruption, the executive director of non-profit organisation Corruption Watch, David Lewis, told Africa Check.

“Various people, various institutions have come up with estimates. I don’t know how they arrive at these figures,” he said.

“I am comfortable to say there is a high level of corruption in SA but you can’t rely on those estimates.”

Conclusion: the figure of R700bn is a thumbsuck.

Although a firm figure helps spur citizens to action – in a country where experts agree that it’s a big problem – this specific estimate is not reliable.

The amount probably stems from a claim that about 20% of a country’s public procurement budgets disappears into back pockets, attributable to Transparency International as far as we could tell, but not backed up by research studies. Since then it’s been mangled beyond recognition in South Africa.

* This article first appeared on Africa Check (http://www.africacheck.org), a non-profit organisation run from the Journalism Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, which promotes accuracy in public debate, testing claims made by public figures around the continent

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Daily News

Conflict minerals reporting guidance published


SupplyManagement

October 1, 2013 | Helen Gilbert

The guidance, compiled by the Responsible Sourcing Network and Enough Project, has been produced ahead of the 31 May 2014 deadline that requires companies who source minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo to submit their first conflict minerals disclosures to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Policies should articulate a commitment to ensuring sourcing practices do not support conflict, human rights abuses including forced labour, mass atrocities and crimes against humanity, the Expectations for Companies’ Conflict Minerals Reporting guidance stated.

It detailed how firms should commit to exercising supply chain due diligence and consider the implementation of a supply chain transparency system that allows for the identification of the smelters and/or refiners in its minerals supply chain.

The metals tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold – also known as 3TG – should only be sourced from conflict-free covered countries, while companies should only use 3TG minerals from smelters that have been audited and verified as conflict free by a credible programme such as the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative, the document states.

Other recommendations include developing a conflict minerals programme that incorporates a description of the steps that will be taken to identify, assess, mitigate and respond to risks.

At a minimum steps should include supply chain surveys, supplier training, supplier and smelter encouragement, and an obligation to participate in the Conflict Free Smelter programme or equivalent, provided such industry schemes adhere to international standards, audits and unannounced spot checks, the report stipulated.

Darren Fenwick, senior government affairs manager at the Enough Project and report co-author said advocates for a clean minerals trade were keen to understand how companies, who are connected to the Congo through mineral sourcing, are addressing their connection to the conflict that has resulted in millions of deaths.

“Companies whose reports show compliance benefit from positive public sentiment and increased brand recognition,” he said.

Fellow co-author Patricia Jurewicz, Responsible Sourcing Network director added: “Investors would like to see their companies establish baselines the first year and specify the steps they are taking so we can then measure improvements in transparency and accountability reporting over time. Our paper provides a set of specific indicators that can be tracked to allow for comparability between annual reports.”

 

Cameroon Palm Oil Plantation Withdraws Sustainability Application


Pratap ChatterjeeCorpWatch Blog

September 6th, 2012

A subsidiary of Herakles Capital, a New York based investment firm, has decided to cancel its application to join the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) after environmental groups alleged that its 73,086 hectare project in southwestern Cameroon would threaten the sustainability of the local community.

In 2009, the SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, Ltd. (SGSOC), which is wholly owned by Herakles Capital, acquired a 99 year lease to land in Ndian and Kupe-Manenguba divisions where it drew up plans for a $350 million palm oil plantation. (Herakles Capital has several other investments in Africa such as the Bujagali dam in Uganda, the Boke Alumina Project in the Republic of Guinea and an East African undersea fiber-optic project.)

“From its very name, American-owned SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, Ltd. (SGSOC) presents a pro-environment, pro-resources image,” writes Frederic Mousseau, policy director of the Oakland Institute in California in a new report released this week. “(But it) is also part of a strategy to deceive the public into believing that there is logic to cutting down rainforests to make room for palm oil plantations.”

SGSOC has gone to great lengths to convince the public that it is socially responsible. “Our project, should it proceed, will be a big project with big impacts – environmentally and socially,” Herakles CEO Bruce Wrobel wrote to the Oakland Institute in July 2011. “The big question – and the real story – is whether it ends up strongly positive or strongly negative. I couldn’t be more convinced that this will be an amazingly positive story for the people within our impact area.”

In addition to Herakles, Wrobel operates a non-profit dedicated to poverty reduction named “All for Africa” that boasts board members like Nigerian-American actor Gbenga Akinnagbe who shot to fame in The Wire, a U.S. TV series, and the film: The Taking of Pelham 123.

And SGSOC also applied to join the international Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which has signed up 779 members and associates including almost every major industry player in the world, in an effort to burnish its social responsibility credentials.

Indeed RSPO was created in 2004 to address the numerous clashes over palm plantations around the world with the help of non-government organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund which helped set up the organization.
But the palm oil industry – which produces 50 million tons of edible oils and biofuels a year – remains deeply controversial.

As CorpWatch writer Melody Kemp noted in her recent article for us “Green Deserts: The Palm Oil Conflict” the plantation companies make money in two ways: First they clear cut and sell the existing high-value trees, burning the residue. The haze from those forest fires has interrupted regional air traffic and caused severe respiratory illnesses in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia as well as Singapore. Then the companies plant the spiky oil palms trees, creating vast, eerily silent monoculture plantations.

Activists have sparked a raging debate over the industry, faulting palm oil for contributing significantly to carbon dioxide and methane emissions, the loss of biodiversity and precious carbon sequestering forests, land subsidence, poverty, and for exacerbating starvation resulting from land appropriation.

The very same problems have been predicted in an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) conducted by SGSOC itself. The company assessment suggested that the negative impact of the plantation on livelihoods will be “major” and “long-term.”

Nor is the Herakles investment the most efficient way to support the local economy, according to a report by on the SGSOC deal by two Cameroonian NGOs, the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) and Réseau de Lutte contre la Faim (RELUFA). The groups calculated that the government of Cameroon could generate 13 times more employment and significantly larger tax revenue if it were to require local bread-makers to use 20 percent locally produced flour (derived from sweet potatoes, corn or cassava), using just 15,000 hectares of land.

Local farmers and politicians are especially skeptical of SGSOC because palm oil plantations are not new to the region. Beginning in 1927, companies like Pamol have operated similar projects for decades. “Plantation jobs have always been modern day slavery,” says Joshua Osih of the Social Democratic Front, Cameroon’s main opposition party, in an interview for the film “The Herakles Debacle” just released by the Oakland Institute. “We’ve seen a lot of industrial plantations develop around this area and nothing, absolutely nothing, has happened positively to the population.”

“Everybody here is self employed,” Okie Bonaventure Ekoko, a cocoa farmer from Mboko village told the film maker Franck Bieleu. “There is no advantages that the people here will have (from Herakles investments). We don’t need them, we are fine.”

“And if they come and say they want to take this land from us, we are not ready for it,” says Esoh Sylvanus Asui, a farmer from Bombe Konye village. “We will fight and we will die for our land.”

In May 2011, some 50 local and international environmental and community groups wrote a letter to Wrobel expressing concern. In March 2012 a number of the same groups lodged a formal complaint against Herakles with the RSPO alleging that Herakles’ project violated Cameroonian laws and noted that it “would disrupt the ecological landscape and migration routes of protected species.” Meanwhile local farmers have begun to organize against the project. On June 6, 2012, villagers from Fabe and Toko held a protest against the plantation during the visit of the local governor.

On August 24 2012, Herakles withdrew its application to the RSPO.

“The RSPO regrets this withdrawal of membership by Herakles Farms,” the organization said in a brief statement posted to its website. “This action pre-empts recommendations from the RSPO Complaints Panel to further verify the allegations made by the complainants.”

The company did not respond to requests for comment from the media.

Nigeria: Ogoni Leader Welcomes U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Shell Case


Voice of America

James Butty

October 18, 2011

The president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People [MOSOP] said his group welcomes the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a dispute between the Ogoni people and Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company.

The high court justices agreed Monday to hear a federal appeal by a group of Nigerians who alleged that shell was complicit in torture, wrongful deaths and other human rights abuses committed by Nigerian authorities against environmental campaigners during the 1990s.

MOSOP President Ledum Mitee said the decision sends the right message that Shell must be held to account.

“It is quite a refreshing news coming at this time, and I think it sends the right message that clearly, even though there have been delays in getting there, but at least we can see light at the end of the tunnel that someday Shell will be held to account,” he said…Read more.

Uganda: NGO sues UMEME over contract


New Vision 

By Roderick Ahimbazwe

A non-governmental organisation has taken UMEME to court over failure to make details of its 20-year-concession contract public. 

The power distributor is jointly sued with the Government and the sector regulator in a suit filed at the High Court in Kampala yesterday.

The African Institute of Energy Governance (AFIEGO) along with 1,927 others want the Government to reveal the details of the contract it signed with UMEME.

The public who are the consumers are entitled to know what transpired between UMEME and the Government when signing their contract. That is why we are taking UMEME,  the Electricity Regulatory Authority, the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited and the Government to court,” Dickens Kamugisha, the AFIEGO chief executive officer, said yesterday.

Kamugisha revealed that his organisation had tried to ask UMEME for details of the contract but that they had been told that the contract was confidential.

“We want court to terminate this contract because the terms are very unfair to the people of Uganda who are the consumers of power,” he noted.

Kamugisha observed that since UMEME was getting paid for any power losses, it was not in its interests to improve electricity services because it stood to gain from the rebates.

Kamugisha also wondered why the findings of the Saleh Commission were not being investigated by the Government. The Saleh Commission that reviewed the UMEME contract found out that the tariffs were expensive, while the Government was paying a lot of subsidies to UMEME.

“The commission made several recommendations, which are yet to be implemented,” Kamugisha said.

He said his organisation, unlike the Saleh Commission, does not want the contract reviewed but rather terminated and the running of the electricity sector given back to the Government or put up for competitive bidding. Owen Murangira of Murangira and Advocates, the AFIEGO attorneys, said his client was concerned about the high electricity charges and the poor billing system based on estimation.

“AFIEGO wants electricity to be declared a right so that everyone is entitled to cheap power. It also wants the billing of power by estimation to be declared unlawful,” he said.

Modes of Punditry, Modes of Influence


Woldbank.org

August 10th, 2011

By Sina Odugbemi

Years ago, I was a writer of opinions and editorials on the leading newspaper of influence in Lagos, Nigeria. We had on the editorial board  advisers to we the writers men who had vast experience of government and business both within and outside Nigeria. I learned a lesson from them that has stayed with me. They taught me that if you want policy makers to take you seriously even when they disagree with you, your commentary must meet two requirements.

What is saddening about our age of volubility is that the vast majority of public affairs commentators do not meet these two requirements. Lots of commentators do not have real mastery of the policy issues they are commenting on. Plus there is an epidemic of cheating, of ignoring political realities and simply assailing policy makers and leaders, and yelling: ‘Just fix it! Just show leadership!’ Leadership is coming to mean Performer of Miracles! Read more

AIDS Funds Frozen for China in Grant Dispute


Logo of The New York Times.
Image via Wikipedia

New York Times

May 20, 2011

By 

China’s management of grants and its hostility toward grass-roots organizations in public health issues has drawn a rebuke from a global fund. Read more

Ghana- Storm over $130 million grant to Anglogold


The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis an...
Image via Wikipedia

AfricaFiles no.25153, March 18, 2011

The Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health (GCNH) has questioned the selection of AngloGold Ashanti by the Global Fund for HIV, Tuberculosis and malaria control, to carry out malaria programmes in Ghana. AngloGold received an amount of about $130 million last year to extend its malaria programme to 40 districts in the Ashanti, Western, Northern, Upper East and West, Regions. The coalition argues that it is often civil society organizations that are responsible for such activities in all countries, and is therefore baffled as to why in Ghana a multinational company was given that mandate. According to the group, the whole nation could have benefited from the amount if it had been given the money as it has members nationwide who could have prosecuted the programme unlike AngloGold which is doing the work only in districts of aforementioned Regions.

It alleged that AngloGold made a huge profit last year and could have organized the amount of money it has been given for such an assignment as corporate social responsibility. “Is it fair for a company that makes such profit to be given such grant meant for the whole country? The Global Fund gathers money from other multinational companies in the world therefore it is not fair that AngloGold should be the principal recipient,” Dr. Joan Awunyo-Akaba, National Chairperson of the coalition argued. She continued, “If it is true that AngloGold is trying to set up its NGO so it can share the money as a sub-recipient then I think it is unethical. Our information is that AngloGold has used only about $6 million of the money and has not covered even the slated districts. The money belongs to the people of Ghana so it is not too late for the company to get in touch with the coalition and work with us.Read more

UN Global Compact: What is in the brand name?


Map of South Africa, with provinces, neighbour...
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Anti-corruption core focus for UN Global Compact, more SA groups sign in

Engineering News by Christy van der Merve

March 17, 2011

From 2011 to 2014 the major focus of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), which focuses on sustainable business promotion, would be to fight corruption.

South Africa, with 52 organisations partaking in the initiative, was represented at the UNGC network through the National Business Initiative (NBI), which joined the UNGC in 2007.

On Thursday, a further four South African entities signed on to become a part of the UNGC, which focuses on ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour practices, the environment, and anti-corruption…Discussions would start on ‘integrity pacts’ to put procurement processes under the spotlight, and stakeholders would look to start a pilot project, which would enable the establishment of best practice guidelines, and monitoring and reporting guidelines…UNGC South Africa chairperson Futhi Mtoba noted that a collective action platform called the National Anti-Corruption Forum, which represented business, government and civil society, already existed in South Africa. She said this forum had identified projects in the pipeline that could serve as a pilot project to establish guidelines and principles to root out corruption. One of these projects was the Metrorail upgrade of moving stock. She said that Information Technology was also an area where government was “hit seriously”, and thus these projects could be scrutinised. Read the full article.

The Global Compact launched in 1999 by Koffi Annan, the former U.N. Secretary-General, is an initiative that promotes ten agreed principles of responsible corporate citizenship based on U.N. universal values related to human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. It goes without saying that the Global Compact initiative appeals to many in Africa because the U.N. brand offers civil society a broader platform for cross-sectoral partnerships and political mobilization. Under the Global Compact, civil society is becoming more engaged and creative by shifting discourse from ‘corruption’ tout court, to ‘the actual areas where it manifests.’  It is said that the risk of corruption is higher in public procurement and incidences of government subpar performance increasingly make front page news on the continent.

So, what is in the U.N. Global Compact brand for African countries? A possibility. As the model of public-private partnerships for development is  integrated and understood by social and economic actors, it might be reasonnable to expect that actual  government  procurement reform could gain greater support.

It is important to note that civil society engaged in the debate over public procurement reform in Africa is not anti-business. There are pockets of business-adverse activists all over the continent but their influence is declining. In the case of South Africa, civil society is focusing on the fight against corruption in public procurement because it hurts business, democratic governance, and society at large. The U.N. Global Compact is therefore an initial step in the good direction.

Despite its good intentions, the U.N. Global Compact still lacks adequate regulatory and institutional framework. A report published by the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) of the United Nations in 2010 highlights several regulatory and institutional problems with the Global Compact that could, once again, put the reputation of the U.N. at risk. For instance, noting  the confusion between ends and means, the JIU warns that “mere commitment to the principles upon joining the initiative is not a certificate of ‘good behavior’ on the part of participants.” Moreover, “the voluntary nature of the commitment and the ‘learning’ premise on which the initiative is based do not provide adequate safeguards for behavior.” These are the same problems that cripple African bureaucracies.

According to the U.N. Joint Inspection Unit report, the lack of reliable regulatory and institutional standing limits the impact of the Global Compact. It therefore follows that in order to bring about institutional reforms, African states and civil society also need to explore possibilities that the WTO Government Procurement Agreement offers. This is not going to be an easy task because of differences in emphasis –social versus economic outcomes, administrative versus legal approaches– in the U.N. and the WTO models. Nevertheless, without a serious commitment to an institutionalized and formalized procurement compact, broader political participation alone may not bring about the kind of economic development that civil society wishes to see in Africa.  S.N. Nyeck.

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