Saturday, April 2, 2011

Civil service corruption rife

Civil service corruption rife....

01 Apr 2011
Hartdegen writes a regular column for
There was a time when the term ‘robbed’ referred to housebreaking, theft from a motorcar or cash stolen from a till. It was a loosely-used term and when people talked about “being robbed” they would evoke surprised “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” from the few dinner party guests entertained last Saturday.

But not any more.

Sit at a dinner table and everyone at the table will tell of at least one instance where he or she has been robbed. That’s how endemic crime is within our society.

But the term takes on a whole new meaning when it is applied to our own police force, our own government officials, our national departments – like the Department of Public Works or Human Settlements – and to every sector of government, whether national, provincial or local.

Because that’s what’s happening right now to the millions of taxpayers in South Africa. 

They are – we are – being robbed by our own government employees and their cohorts.

Billions of rands that have been lost in rampant fraud and corruption are at the heart of an investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) run by Willie Hofmeyr

He says at least R2-billion has been stolen from the South African Police Services in dodgy contracts often negotiated by police officials with undisclosed interests in the contracting companies who secured the tenders.

He’s investigating the construction of 33 police stations built at a cost of R330-million or more because of “significant irregularities”.

Worse still, more that 50% of the 10 000 housing contractors that have been contracted to build houses for the poor under the government housing programme are under investigation for shoddy workmanship, billing too much for the work done or for building ghost houses that don’t even exist.

The picture is really bleak:

- The people who are supposed to be protecting us are actually fleecing us. In fact the corruption is so widespread in SAPS that only the top 20 cases – involving R2-billion – are being investigated;

- The contractors who are supposed to be building homes for the poor are buying new cars and fancy lifestyles with the money they’ve got from us instead of building homes and making a fair profit;

- The municipalities – all the ones in North West province anyway – are guilty of widespread corruption and maladministration;

- The Public Works Department is spending money on suspect leases that enrich a privileged few;

- The SABC – supposed to be an unbiased news service – is so rotten that allegations of serious criminality are being investigated.

The list just goes on and on.

And what does the national government do? Nothing at all it seems.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, furious bandits from Zandspruit turn Beyers Naude Drive into a virtual war-zone by burning tyres and hurling rocks at passers-by while they protest over a lack of service delivery.  The police turn on them with rubber bullets.

Perhaps it’s hardly surprising that there is no service delivery from councils and government departments if the money that was supposed to be used to deliver services has been filtched by the contractors or by crooked public servants hell-bent on enriching themselves.

The people of the Zandspruit community want electricity, houses, water and sanitation. They might not be entitled to it but they want it nevertheless.

Just as the contractors want a fancy lifestyle and will secure it by any means – even by stealing your money and mine through dodgy contracts drawn up and signed by dodgy public servants who’ll get a kickback for the trouble.

What do we ordinary South Africans do?

Firstly, we should be able to change the government through the tried and tested mechanism of the ballot box.

But that’s just not going to happen is it?

Because while the residents of Zandspruit demand better housing, free electricity and running hot and cold water, the reality is that they will go back to the polls on Election Day and vote for the African National Congress anyway.

The majority of people in South Africa, it seems, appears to make no connection between a crooked government and the electorate that put it there.

Secondly, can we get back the money that’s been wasted?

I doubt it because even if Hofmeyr’s band of investigators successfully prosecute those guilty of corruption, fraud and maladministration – and successfully seize their assets too – the bulk of the money is still gone.

The money has been spent in a frenzied buying spree to capture a lifestyle and a lifestyle has no asset value to realise.

So how do we prevent these widespread instances of fraud, theft, corruption and maladministration?

We don’t.

After 16 years of democracy, our country appears to be even more corrupt now than ever before – and the nouveau riche are enjoying their homes, their cars and their holidays because you and I are paying for them.  

We hand over our money to the South African Revenue Service or the local municipality so it can be misappropriated as soon as we’ve paid it.

How depressing is that?

You see our own government is robbing us. What is this country coming to?

The only way that we might achieve some change is to make sure we use our vote in the upcoming local elections even though the reality of that is the majority of people – like those who are protesting up and down Beyers Naude Drive – will keep the ANC in power.

For them – and so many other South Africans – democracy is the ANC.

And that just sucks.

But for those few of us who do still believe in democracy then every one seat lost might be one more vigilant investigator who’ll work tirelessly to stamp out corruption.

Because that’s actually what South Africa needs right now.

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