Corruption fight is sclerotic

"If we don't deal with corruption, it will overcome us."

She told MPs that corruption in this country has undoubtedly reached crisis proportions: "Corruption is increasing. All agencies are saying the same thing: the auditor general, the SIU [Special Investigating Unit], the minister in the presidency and the Public Service Commission."

Rewind two months. The country watched as a former Cabinet minister, Dina Pule, was publicly rebuked in Parliament – the session was broadcast live across the country. The reprimand was just one aspect of the sanctions recommended by Parliament's own ethics committee, which had investigated Pule and found wrongdoing, not only on her part but also on the part of her lover, businessperson Phosane Mngqibisa, who had inappropriately received R6-million from the state through Pule. Government employees were also found to have colluded with Pule when she was minister of communications, and she refused to give evidence to the parliamentary committee when called to do so during its investigation.

The ethics committee also recommended that its report be sent to the police for it to conduct criminal investigations so that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) could consider prosecution. It also wanted the Public Service Commission to investigate the possibility of misconduct by the department's officials; it advised that the presidency should consider measures to address the relationship between the department of communications and its entities; and recommended an increase in penalties for transgression.

That sentence for Pule seemed to be a very harsh one, but only in comparison with the lenience that has been afforded to so many other state officials who have broken the rules, sometimes in the most spectacular way.

But then, one has to wonder whether real implementation of such recommendations by a parliamentary body is moving ahead, so the Mail & Guardian followed up on the progress of the ethics committee.

The Hawks said they were busy with an inquiry, meaning they were taking the preliminary steps towards deciding whether to investigate Pule or not. The NPA can't do anything until the Hawks have referred a case to them. The Public Service Commission said it had received no request from Parliament to investigate, and several attempts to see what the presidency has done proved futile.

And these agencies, according to Madonsela, are concerned about corruption. If so, they should perhaps move somewhat faster to investigate and prosecute cases that do come up. There are sure to be many more on the way.

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