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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

Senegal’s reforms and red carpets


Africa Report

November 27, 2012

Senegal’s President Macky Sall has slashed government spending to finance new infrastructure projects.

Faced with an audit of Wade-era projects, the opposition says he is playing political games. Dakar has been rolling out the red carpet in recent weeks.

Elected in March on a reform ticket, President Macky Sall is in demand as an interlocutor – whether it is by the World Bank, the UN or France’s President François Hollande, who stopped in Dakar on 12 October en route to his more controversial landing in Kinshasa for the Francophonie summit.

This month, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation is holding its annual development conference in Dakar to salute Senegal’s political achievements.

Dakar’s National Assembly gave Hollande the chance to set out his Africa policy, which he insisted was non-interventionist and non-paternalistic.

Hollande seized the chance for a tête à tête with Sall, seeking his help for the regional effort to tackle the worsening in- security in Mali.

Senegal’s troops, alongside Ghana’s, are regarded as the most professional in the region.

But Sall has plenty of local problems to tackle – such as the perennial rainy-season flooding.

The government’s failure to invest in flood defences was one of the reasons for voters turning against former President Abdoulaye Wade.

In September, Macky Sall pushed through a bill to abolish the Senate, the second chamber in the National Assembly.

He promised that the 767bn CFA francs ($1.5bn) would be used to finance a 10-year plan for effective flood defences, storm drainage and sanitation.

Opponents to Sall’s plan accuse him of partisan plotting.

The Senate was dominated by members of Wade’s [I]Parti Démocratique Sénégalais[/I].

But Sall’s supporters insist the plan reflects the need to cut ballooning government overheads inherited from the Wade era.

The Sall government aims to cut the budget deficit from current levels of 7.4% of gross domestic product down to 4% by 2015.

So far, Sall has closed 59 moribund state institutions, banned first-class travel for civil servants and is selling a presidential jet.

To promote accountability, Sall has published details of all official salaries, declared his own assets and promised to cut salaries at state-run companies to below 5m CFA francs per month.

“Humility, sobriety and rigour should govern our politics,” Sall told The Africa Report’s sister magazine Jeune Afrique after his election.

“I assure you that there will be a profound break from the practices that were in force under my predecessor.”

The new government has quickly launched audits of government departments and projects for evidence of illicit disbursements.

This includes projects run by Wade’s son Karim, such as the 650bn CFA franc energy crisis programme, Plan Takkal.

Britain, France and the United States have pledged cooperation in tracking down stolen money.

Sall rejects claims of political vindictiveness: “The only thing that interests us is that the errors of the past don’t repeat themselves,” he said.

The courts will take cases identified by the audit.

His promise to cut the presidential term from seven to five years with immediate effect won local and international plaudits, as did his agreement with the African Union to set up a special tribunal for Chad’s ex-leader Hissène Habré, in exile in Senegal since 1990.

South Africa: Gordhan’s war on incompetence and impunity


Mail & Guardian

By Faranaaz Parker

July 24, 2012

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has revealed plans for the national treasury to take a much tighter grip on local governments‘ finances. See the full report here.

Following the release of a damning report on the scale of mismanagement at municipal levels, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Monday revealed that the national treasury would take a tighter grip on procurement processes across the country.

Gordhan announced that treasury would create a procurement oversight unit to actively enforce supply chain management at a national level and would shortly appoint a chief procurement officer. The position would be advertised in two weeks and would be established within the next two months.

“Where there are transactions for a particular size or type within the national domain there must be the ability to assess whether they meet market criteria in terms of prices [and] whether proper processes havebeen followed,” he said.

The announcement was an indictment of local government’s failure to spend and account for public money effectively.

The minister was speaking at the release of auditor general Terence Nombembe’s report on local government audit results, which showed that only 5% of all municipal entities – a total of 13 – had achieved clean audits for the year 2010/2011.

Gordhan said IT systems would be developed to allow the treasury to actively monitor compliance with financial management requirements so that it may demand information regarding procurements, such as how decisions were made and by whom.

Spending fiascos

The move may help prevent public spending fiascos such as the multibillion-rand leasing scandal that saw former police chief Bheki Cele and former public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde sacked last year.

Gordhan said the government should be able to demonstrate that there were consequences for nonperformance and for working outside the law.

“At the moment, those consequences are not there. When consequences are not there continuously then a level of impunity develops,” he said.

He said the new oversight mechanism would require the help of law enforcement agencies, who would bear the responsibility of preparing cases against and prosecuting those guilty of corruption.

With reference to the auditor general’s report, Gordhan said he was particularly disappointed that some large metros, which had better skills and capacity than small municipalities, did not received clean audits.

“If they can’t meet simple criteria in financial management, then it’s a matter the treasury has to take a closer look at,” he said.

Nombembe’s damning report
Nombembe’s report showed there were three root causes behind the slow progress towards clean audits in local government.

The biggest problem, he said, was a general lack of consequence for poor performance. Modified audit results were simply considered the norm, he said.

In addition, over 70% of those audited did not have the minimum competencies and skills required to perform their jobs.

Worryingly, over half of the municipalities audited were slow in responding to the auditor general’s suggestions and were not taking ownership of key financial controls.

Nombembe said if these issues were not addressed, they would continue to weaken governance.

He also complained that most municipalities employed consultants in areas where they already had people to do the work, and even then the results were not as good as they should be.

Cedric Frolick, National Assembly house chairperson, agreed, saying: “What are the employees doing when 70% of the work is being done by people who must be paid for it on top of their salaries?”

“Why are people who are not doing their job, being allowed to keep on [not] doing it?”

Meeting the criteria
But Minister in the Presidency responsible for performance, monitoring and evaluation Collins Chabane said because of the way the three spheres of government were structured, it was difficult to make interventions in local government unless specific criteria had been met.

“It creates a complication where no other authority can intervene, by law, until that municipality makes a decision,” he said.

Chabane said in future, the performance of departments and institutions may be linked to the performance of the heads of those institutions.

“That will begin to bring accountability,” he said.

Meanwhile Subesh Pillay, chairperson of the South African Local Government Association, said it was important to remember that clean audits were a means to an end.

“That end is to ensure that local government become efficient and effective organs of service delivery,” he said.

South Africa: Enough with the secrecy


South Africa: temporary residence permit and s...
Image by Sem Paradeiro via Flickr

The Witness.com.za

June 8, 2011

by George Mari

RECENT accusations levelled against KZN Human Settlement MEC Maggie Govender, citing evasiveness in failing to answer ongoing questions around the R1,6-billion Vulindlela housing project in the pro-vince amid further revelations that some of South Africa’s top political families are allegedly linked to the development company, merely scratch the surface of what the Democratic Alliance believes is a far more serious problem facing housing delivery in our province. Leading the charges made by the DA is the allegation that African National Congress president Jacob Zuma’s brother is a shareholder in the development company, Dezzo Construction. Meanwhile, fingers have also been pointed at senior politicians in our own KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature….When government subsidies and funding are utilised, the project must go to public tender in terms of the Supply Chain Management process. In addition, the allocation of the management of R2,1 billion of public funds to a single company is not equitable in the context of the subsidised housing sector. The department has a responsibility in terms of procurement regulations to nurture and develop emerging companies in the sector, and yet it has allowed, through the VDA, a sum equivalent to a staggering 70% of its annual budget to be placed under the control of a single, established company. A tender of this magnitude — R1,6 billion — should never be awarded to a single entity. Read more….

Zimbabwe: Procurement board procedures rapped


Local government wards of Zimbabwe
Image via Wikipedia

The limitations of poverty-centered/scarcity approaches to underdevelopment

The story of the hospital in Gokwe North below reveals a few things about the procurement process in Zimbabwe and political decentralization. The government does not necessarily perform optimally even when resources are provided. Multilayered bureaucracy frustrates in-house procurement processes at the district level. Excess bureaucracy is correlated with poor time and resource management.
This story adds to our understanding of a source of underdevelopment and public waste. That is, as the case of Gokwe North shows, when resource abundance leads to unnecessary duplicated public actions, development is delayed. Better strategic planning might have cut time spent “going back and forth” and helped open the hospital on the due date.
One of the fascinating aspects of procurement is its ability to highlight the limitations of poverty-centered/scarcity approaches to underdevelopment. Instead, at times, an abundance trap, rather than a scarcity trap, perpetuates underdevelopment. S.N. Nyeck

AllAfrica.com December 6, 2010

The need to comply with State Procurement Board procedures has resulted in the construction of a district hospital in Gokwe North lagging behind schedule. Government allocated US$600 000 for the project. Principal director in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare Dr Christopher Tapfumaneyi said this when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Welfare last week.

He had been asked why the Ministry was taking long to fully use funds allocated to it by Treasury. Dr Tapfumaneyi said: “The issue of absorption is mainly to do with problems in procurement. “For example, we have a district hospital in Gokwe North and US$600 000 was allocated for its completion and by mid of this year this hospital should have been opened. “However, the procurement authorities keep having us go back and forth with regards to specific and specialised equipment. “The problems with the procurement authorities have always affected us especially where capital projects are concerned.” Dr Tapfumaneyi said they were consulting the procurement board on a way forward. Read more

 

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