"We have become so inured to seeing examples of corruption and wasteful expenditure running into millions and billions of rand that it is easy to forget quite how much money this really is and what could be done with it," research manager Lucy Holborn said on Monday.
The institute was responding to a recent auditor general report that found provincial departments and entities had incurred R24.8-billion in "unauthorised, irregular, wasteful, and fruitless expenditure".
It calculated that this money could have built over 400 schools. For the same amount it could have educated a fifth of the total public school pupil population – 2.5-million pupils – for one year.
The sum could otherwise have been used to fund 1.2-million university students, more than the total number of students now enrolled at universities.
The sum was also equivalent to 7.4-million child support grants for one year, or 1.7-million old age pensions.
Based on the price of a newly built prison in Kimberley, which cost R45-million, the R24.8-billion could have been ubsed to build 550 new prisons.
The projected cost of the new Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital being R1-billion, the money could have built 24 children's hospitals, the institute said.
Holborn said: "To put it in terms that some of our politicians might better relate to, this money could pay the presidential salary [at its current rate] for over 9 000 years; it could pay the annual cost of catering for all national departments 125 times over; or it could build 120 Nkandlas." – Sapa