25 Apr 2013

Corruption Watch Fosters Whistleblowing in South Africa

Founded in January 2012 under the initiative of national trade union federation COSATU, one of Corruption Watch’s main goals is to offer citizens and corruption victims channels to report corruption cases, guaranteeing full anonymity. For that purpose, the organisation offers the possibility of submitting tip-offs through SMS, Facebook, e-mail, an online form, or even in person. According to Corruption Watch’s executive director David Lewis, “given the fact that corruption is a conspiracy against the public, the public must participate in rejecting it”. He adds: “There are a lot more people who are talking about corruption, and there are a lot more people who are outraged about corruption, and people are increasingly phoning hotlines, complaining, laying charges, sending in reports and even taking to the streets.

After its first anniversary last January, Corruption Watch disclosed statistics on the corruption cases reported: about 1200, an average of 3 per day, most commonly involving municipal administrations (23%), traffic police (14%) and schools (11%). The organisation stated that it will prioritise fighting corruption in schools and in small municipalities, where monitoring is weak and citizens have little possibilities of reporting and complaining about corruption cases. The cases reported to Corruption Watch are investigated internally and furthered to relevant authorities for appropriate action. In order to increase pressure for the cases to be adequately and speedily handled by enforcement bodies, Corruption Watch also engages in naming-and-shaming activities in partnership with media, publishing findings of their investigations, especially for big corruption cases.

The organisation has also been active in advocacy work for important pieces of legislation, and in some cases against bills that may increase corruption risks in the country. It took a position against the Protection of State Information Bill, also known as the “Secrecy Bill”, and has recently voiced serious concerns about a bill to change regulation for business licensing, which proposes that local governments would be in charge of processing business applications, and inspections to monitor compliance would be conducted by traffic policemen. Given that municipal governments and traffic police were among the organisations most often associated with the corruption cases reported to Corruption Watch, it claims that the bill could create room for more abuses in the issuing of business licenses. The organisation has also proposed a law amendment to strengthen the independence of the South African Police Service.

Recently, Corruption Watch has created a campaign with a fun twist to raise awareness about corruption, in collaboration with cartoonist Mdu Ntuli, who has created two featurettes, one of which dealing with corruption in schools. The campaign aims at further empowering people, in particular youth, to report corruption.

(The pictures featured in this article are from smartplanet.com and timeslive.co.za.)