An alarming 1 964 whistleblowers have reported acts of corruption in both the public and private sectors during the first half of the year, according to the 2021 Analysis of Corruption Trends report by Corruption Watch.
In a statement, the anti-graft watchdog said those brave enough to expose corruption continued to face threats to their lives from people acting with impunity. The environment is even more hostile to whistleblowers, as shown by the violent killing of Babita Deokaran in Johannesburg in August.
Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo on Tuesday launched the Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit, which aims to eradicate corruption by encouraging and protecting whistleblowers in the public service.
Crimes over the period reviewed by Corruption Watch range from extortion and abuse of authority by the police, school principals extorting sexual favours from temporary teachers to safeguard their jobs, and Covid-19 related graft.
Police corruption dominates
However, police corruption has continued to dominate. According to Corruption Watch, since 2019, its reports have highlighted an unabated corruption problem in the policing sector, exacerbated by the powers invested in the police while Covid-19 lockdown regulations are in force.
Also prevalent was corruption related to procurement and maladministration in response to the pandemic, including mismanagement of funds like the temporary employers-employees relief scheme, intended to provide support to people who lost their income during or as a result of lockdowns.
The majority of complaints — 42% of the total reports — came from Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 10%; the Western Cape at 9% and the Eastern Cape at 7%.
Whistleblowers in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo pointed to abuse of authority, frequently by principals and the chairpersons of school governing bodies, as a major concern. Another common feature were reports of embezzlement or theft of school funds, and irregularities in employment processes.
Gauteng and the Western Cape had the highest reports of public housing corruption, with most whistleblowers exposing irregularities in the allocation of houses built under the Reconstruction and Development Programme, fraud in relation to housing waiting lists and abuse of authority.
“This continues to be the story of corruption in South Africa, according to almost 2 000 brave whistleblowers. So when will the tide turn?” asked Melusi Ncala, a researcher at Corruption Watch and author of the report.