LESSONS LEARNT ON ANTI-CORRUPTION

CASE STUDY ON THE SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION FORUM1

The Case Study was commissioned by the Public Service Commission. Academic oversight was provided by Prof. Mollie Painter-Morland, Director of the Centre for Business and Professional Ethics at the University of Pretoria, and Associate Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago, USA. Peer review was provided by Ralph Hamman from the Centre for Corporate Citizenship, UNISA, South Africa.

Authors:
Odette Ramsingh
Director General - Public Service Commission
Kris Dobie
Centre for Business & Professional Ethics, University of Pretoria.

ABSTRACT

South Africa’s approach to fighting corruption is unique in terms of international practice in that government, business and civil society are collectively engaged with the problem. From the first formal dialogue held by government in 1998, corruption has been acknowledged as a societal problem which needs to be addressed collaboratively by all sectors of society.

In 1999, setting off into previously uncharted territory, government invited organised business and civil society to join them in the collective fight against corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Forum, consisting of these three sectors, was launched in 2001 with huge enthusiasm. It, however, became clear within a very short period of time that coordination and formal structures for collaboration would have to be improved if the forum was going to justify its existence. Business and civil society in particular had to find ways of coordinating their input and activities, and the forum itself had to streamline its structure to speed up decision-making and enable a focus on tangible projects. Today, at the end of 2006, after surviving severe growing pains and adjustments, the forum is beginning to deliver the kinds of projects that were envisioned at the outset.




INTRODUCTION

South Africa has a past that is characterized by unequal treatment and unequal distribution of resources and services. Since the apartheid government had to limit transparency to achieve its ends, such context was a breeding ground for corruption. In leaving the discriminatory past behind, the presence of corruption must not be tolerated.

Given South Africa’s past the presence of corruption was not surprising but must not be tolerated.

Then President Nelson Mandela emphasised this in his opening address to Parliament in 1999: “Our hope for the future depends on our resolution as a nation in dealing with the scourge of corruption. Success will require an acceptance that, in many respects, we are a sick society. It is perfectly correct to assert that all this was spawned by apartheid. No amount of self-induced amnesia will change the reality of history. But it is also a reality of the present that among the new cadres in various levels of government you will find individuals who are as corrupt as – if not more than – those they found in government. When a leader in a provincial legislation siphons off resources meant to fund service by legislators to the people; when employees of a government institution set up to help empower those who were excluded by apartheid defraud it for their own enrichment, then we must admit that we have a sick society. This problem manifests itself in all areas of life”.2

The advent of democracy promised a democratic society with a strong human rights-based culture to ensure that the lives of ordinary South Africans are improved. Enshrined in its new Constitution3 is the guarantee of equality, freedom of movement and speech, as well as civil rights and civil liberties. The self-same Constitution places a significant emphasis on a high standard of professional ethics in the Public Service. Such value was to be the guiding beacon in building a national integrity framework in South Africa, and in fighting corruption.

Since 1994 government made a concerted effort to further the fight against corruption through the introduction of a comprehensive legislative and regulatory framework that would regulate ethical conduct and build national integrity. There was however, early recognition of the fact that the application of a successful framework could not be the sole responsibility of government. Broad based partnerships needed to be developed to provide the necessary assistance and capacity to fight corruption. Strong components of such partnership were the business sector and civil society.

It was realized early that the Public Service could not succeed in the battle against corruption alone and that broad based partnerships had to be developed to assist.

A national dialogue began in 1998 with the hosting of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference and followed by the first national Anti-Corruption Summit in 1999. This summit lead to the formation of the National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF), a body comprising of all sectors of society with its primary objective to contribute towards a national consensus through the co-ordination of sectoral strategies against corruption. Both the conference and summit were critical in moving the anti-corruption debate more towards an “us” rather than a “them” approach.

Such a partnership approach continues to be reinforced at the highest echelons of government as articulated recently by the Minister for Public Service and Administration in an address to the Conference of Internal Auditors of South Africa and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners on 24 April 2006 where she stated “Given the magnitude of the scourge of corruption the Public Sector cannot act alone but needs to act in concert with other institutions from the civil society and business sectors to protect the public interest. Thus, there is little argument of the need for strategic partnerships to combat corruption. An anti-corruption approach that ignores this will not therefore succeed.” 4




INITIATING A CROSS-SECTORAL APPROACH: THE ORIGINS OF THE NACF CONCEPT

In the hands of Government

The formal fight against corruption has its origins in a Cabinet decision in 1997 that launched the National Anti-Corruption Campaign. Recognising the need for a coordinated approach in combating corruption, a Ministerial Committee consisting of the Ministers of Justice, Public Service and Administration, Safety and Security, and Provincial Affairs and Constitutional Development (currently known as the Department of Provincial and Local Government) was mandated by Cabinet in October 1997 to consider proposals on the implementation, at national and provincial level, of a national campaign against corruption.

The need for a national campaign against corruption was realised early in the democratic South Africa.

At this stage, the Public Service Commission (PSC) was designated a flag carrier of anti-corruption efforts. The PSC is an independent body established in terms of the Constitution, 1996 to provide oversight over public administration. In executing its Constitutional mandate the PSC is required both by the Constitution and its founding Act to be impartial and independent and to “exercise its powers and perform its functions without fear, favour or prejudice in the interest of the maintenance of effective and efficient public administration and a high standard of professional ethics in the public service.”5 As such the PSC plays a key role in the promotion of good governance in the South African Public Service.

This Ministerial Committee requested the Chairperson of the PSC to call a meeting of all stakeholders who through their respective mandates and activities come into contact with corruption and the control and prosecution of corrupt practices. The primary objective of such meeting was to organize a Summit where measures for the control of corruption would be considered by all the stakeholders.6

After initial planning meetings a Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference was held in Cape Town on 10 and 11 November 1998. This was attended by over 200 delegates from Parliament, the Public Service, local government and organized labour in the public sector. There was also considerable interest from media and donor organizations, whose representatives attended as observers. This was the first time in the history of South Africa that Parliament opened its doors to host a conference of this nature. Such symbolism was powerful: the holding of the conference in the “corridors of power” showed government was serious about addressing corruption in the South African society. Of greater significance was the call made at the conference for the anti-corruption effort to become a national concern that would include all sectors of South African society.

A Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference was held in November 1998.

Inviting the other sectors

This call was taken forward when, after the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference, the PSC arranged a series of meetings with representatives of organizations who attended the Conference as well as representatives from organized business, religious bodies, non-governmental organisations and the media to plan the way forward for a first National Anti-Corruption Summit. A Planning Committee, consisting of members of these sectors, was established for this purpose and a final workshop of the Planning Committee was held on 13 April 1999, a day before the first Summit itself. At this workshop it was agreed that “corruption can only be addressed if it is tackled in a holistic way with all role players working together to develop concrete action plans and programmes”.7 Corruption was recognised as a societal issue and defined wider than the traditional ‘public sector abuse of power for personal gain’.

The PSC coordinated planning for the first National Anti-Corruption Summit involving al sectors of society.

As organizers, the PSC faced the challenge of ensuring inclusive cross-industry representation at the summit. This was no mean task, since this was the first national meeting that would attempt to deal with corruption in all of its complexity. The challenges of ensuring broad representation, organizing the logistics and arranging for the attendance of delegates from across the country, were daunting. All this had to happen within a very short time period (between November 1998 and April 1999) and was coordinated by a very small team of people within the PSC. As a result, certain groups may not have been sufficiently represented at the first Summit.

The first National Anti-Corruption Summit was held in Parliament, Cape Town on 14 to 15 April 1999. It was attended by 263 delegates representing government leaders, organized business, organized religion, non governmental organizations (NGOs), the media, organized labour unions, academic and professional bodies and the public sector. The theme of the Summit was “Fighting Corruption: Towards a National Integrity Strategy”. The mood embodied a sense of collective responsibility, which extended beyond the doors of Parliament as was reflected in extensive media reporting on the event.

The first National Anti-Corruption Summit was held in Parliament in April 1999

In his Keynote Address, the then Executive Deputy President of South Africa, Mr T Mbeki, wished the Conference success, “confident that it will not disappoint the expectations of our people whose spirit is vexed because they are the daily victims of the scourge of corruption which is a blight on our society”.8

Cabinet Ministers, leading business men and prominent leaders of society were present, representing their various sectors. At the Summit all sectors present committed themselves to-

  • Stamp out corruption at all levels in society.
  • Develop a culture of zero tolerance of corruption.
  • Visibly support and subscribe to the national integrity strategy in order to combat corruption in all sectors of civil society and Government.
  • Educate all persons in South Africa to work together towards a higher moral purpose.
Cabinet Ministers, leading business men and prominent leaders of society were present

The Big Resolution

The Summit adopted various resolutions aimed at combating and preventing corruption, building integrity and raising awareness. One of the resolutions adopted under the theme of combating of corruption called for the establishment of “a cross sectoral task team to look into the establishment of a National Coordinating Structure with the authority to effectively lead, coordinate and monitor the national Anti-Corruption Programme.”9 This was the resolution that led to the formation of the NACF.

One of the resolutions of the first Summit called for the establishment of a National Coordinating Structure to lead, coordinate and monitor the National Anti-Corruption Programme.

Once again the PSC was called upon to establish a task team to look into the establishment of a National Coordinating Structure. A post-Summit planning meeting, chaired by the PSC was held on 11 August 1999. Members of business and civil society were present. It was agreed at this meeting that the cross-sectoral task team would comprise one person per sector, and that it will have an interim life span focusing on the setting up of the National Coordinating Structure to oversee, coordinate and monitor the national Anti-Corruption Campaign.10 The task team was for the duration of its existence chaired by Prof. Stan Sangweni of the PSC.

Between the April 1999 Summit and the creation of the NACF as National coordinating structure in March 2001, some of the sectors put in a lot of work towards realizing the intent of the summit resolutions. Government gave effect to resolutions which led to the enactment of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, the Protected Disclosures Act and the Access to Information Act, as well as the establishment of specialised Commercial Crimes Courts and Whistle-blowing Hotlines. It was also during this period that the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Strategy took shape.

The other sectors however found it more difficult to provide impetus to their initiatives. During this time the Business sector, hosted and coordinated by ESKOM, drafted the South African National Code for Business Conduct (SAN Code). Though a positive initiative, the code was not broadly accepted. The problem during this initial phase was coordination. The efforts of the various sectors were not being harnessed into a focused national plan.

The journey towards coordination

At a meeting of the cross-sectoral task team held on 31 March 2000 it was decided that a committee must be set up to report to the cross-sectoral task team on a process outlining the establishment of the National Coordinating Structure.11 Much of the discussion at the meeting revolved around the model of such a structure. Strong feelings emerged as to whether it should be statutory or advisory body. The NGO representative at the time wanted a statutory body as he believed that this will give it the necessary “teeth” to act. Government representatives on the other hand wanted it to be an advisory body that gives input to government on how to manage corruption. There were some who advocated the establishment of a formal public/private partnership, but these mostly represented fringe views. In truth, being confronted with the task of creating this new body ex nihilo, cross-sectoral members were quite uncertain about how it should look. Articulating an acceptable structure was largely left up to the PSC secretariat.

After a to and fro between the secretariat and the task team, and submissions to the sectors, the Minister for Public Service and Administration tabled a draft Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Forum at a meeting of the cross-sectoral task team held on 26 October 2000. Two deadlines had already been missed and it had become clear that reaching consensus on the type of structure was not as easy as originally thought. (Although more time-consuming the NACF continues to make decisions by consensus rather than voting to prevent the alienation of any of the stakeholders.)

At this meeting a task group was appointed to flesh out the principles underpinning the choice of structure and to decide on either a Memorandum of Understanding or a Constitution, since both options were included in the original recommendation submitted to the cross-sectoral task team.12

The next meeting of the cross-sectoral task team was held on 6 March 2001 during which the task group submitted its report back on the Memorandum of Understanding. The Memorandum of Understanding (Annexure A) was adopted at this meeting reflecting the NACF as an advisory body.




LAUNCH OF THE NACF

Two years after the first National Anti-Corruption Summit, after much debate and preparation, the National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF) was launched in Cape Town on 15 June 2001. At its launch ten (10) Ministers, high profile business and prominent civil society representatives were present. Significantly, the NACF was launched in Langa, an impoverished township of Cape Town, underscoring the collective commitment to protect the public interest, to enhance public participation in the fight against corruption and to remain mindful of the impact that corruption has on the developmental goals of the country.

The National Anti-Corruption Forum was launched in Cape Town in June 2001

The NACF comprises three sectors, namely civil society, business, and the public sector. Each sector is represented by ten members nominated by their respective constituencies. Significantly, nine of the ten members of the public sector are Ministers or Deputy Ministers. The tenth is the Chairperson of the PSC. In terms of the Memorandum of Understanding adopted at the launch of the NACF, the role of the NACF is to:

  • Contribute towards the establishment of a national consensus through the co-ordination of sectoral strategies against corruption;
  • Advise government on national initiatives on the implementation of strategies to combat corruption; and
  • Advise sectors on the improvement of sectoral anti-corruption strategies.13
The NACF comprises the Public, Business and Civil Society Sectors and was established to coordinate sectoral strategies against corruption and advise government on national initiatives to combat corruption.

The adoption of this role was a deliberate attempt to position the NACF to be more than a “talkshop”. It was obvious to all representatives that something extraordinary was expected from them to advance the fight against corruption.

The Memorandum of Understanding went further to indicate that –

  • Members of the Forum shall be fit and proper persons who are committed to the objectives of the Forum and who are suitable leaders within each sector.
  • Each sector shall ensure that members of the Forum are representative of the sectors and that members provide continuity in their contributions to the work of the Forum.
Members of the Forum must be fit and proper persons, leaders in their sectors that committed to the objectives of the Forum.

In terms of the Memorandum of Understanding of the NACF the PSC is the Secretariat of the NACF.14

Preparatory stages leading to the establishment of the NACF saw government in the driving seat, with the secretariat carrying the load of not only arranging meetings, but also driving the content of such meetings. It was initially difficult to obtain attendance and participation of all role players at the meetings. However, the resilience and determination of government to realize the ideal of establishing a National Coordinating Structure kept the concept alive, even in the face of this initial inactive participation.

At its inaugural meeting held on 19 July 2001 Adv Dali Mpofu of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (currently the CEO of the South African Broadcasting Corporation), representing Civil Society, was elected as the first Chairperson of the NACF. At the same meeting an Executive Committee was established comprising nine members (three members of each sector). The different sectors were lead by Adv. Dali Mpofu, Civil Society (Chairperson of the NACF), Minister GJ Faser-Moleketi, Public Sector (Deputy-Chairperson of the NACF) and Mr S Mathuysen, Business (Deputy Chairperson of the NACF).15

Subsequent to the first meeting of the NACF there was a very long delay in convening a second meeting. This was as a result of the inability to reconcile diaries of members of the NACF, but also specifically as a result of the unavailability of certain key role players. The next meeting was only held on 21 November 2002. During this meeting the Chairpersonship of the NACF was assumed by the Minister for Public Service and Administration. The meeting was a direct response to the concerns raised by the National Religious Leaders Forum with the President regarding the inactivity of the NACF. The meeting was therefore called to galvanize the NACF into action. Specific proposals were made to improve liaison with membership. For instance, it was proposed that umbrella bodies for Business and Civil Society should be used to facilitate interaction within and between sectors. It was also proposed that the Executive Committee’s composition be reduced from three to two members per sector.16 It was felt that a smaller EXCO would facilitate easier arrangements of meetings.

Inability to reconcile diaries and unavailability of key role players delayed convening of the second meeting of the NACF and concerns were raised by the National Religious Leaders Forum with the President.

The next meeting of the NACF held on 10 February 2003 demonstrated a more content-driven approach. The three sectors reported on their own initiatives to combat corruption, and sought the collaboration of the other sectors where appropriate. It was agreed that a presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee should be made on 26 March 2003 regarding the activities of the NACF.17 This presentation was duly made to the Portfolio Committee reflecting on activities since the first Anti-Corruption Summit held in 1999. Parliament represents the people of South Africa, and as such the NACF through this presentation was accounting to South Africans on what it had achieved.

Consolidating the NACF has not been an easy task. Concerns again arose about its functioning and at the NACF meeting held on 5 December 2003, the Minister for Public Service and Administration as Chairperson commented that while the Forum had been successful in promoting itself, a number of shortcomings had been identified. Areas of concern related to the problems experienced in agreeing on dates for meetings, and the absence of the full quota of business and civil society representatives. Given these shortcomings it was important to review the Forum and assess its objectives. Amongst others it was indicated that the Forum did not achieve much due to shortcomings of the secretariat, budgetary constraints and the Forum’s limited capacity. It was decided that the Forum should adopt an incremental approach to its work and look at ways of strengthening the secretariat. In terms of taking the work of the Forum forward it was agreed that a simplified message would be conveyed to the public indicating the cost of corruption to development.18

Given shortcomings identified there was a need to review the Forum and assess its objectives.

To some degree the next meeting held on 17 August 2004 was a turning point in the NACF. There was robust debate, and a sense that the other sectors called government to account. At the time of the meeting recent media reports had broken over allegations of reported fraud by Parliamentarians. The meeting decided to note the allegations and monitor the situation, but more importantly agreed that future meetings should provide space for discussion of topical issues related to corruption. Furthermore, a request for a dedicated secretariat was made to Cabinet in order to strengthen and enhance the capacity of the secretariat.19

A turning point in the NACF was a robust debate regarding allegations of reported fraud by Parliamentarians. It was agreed that future meetings should provide space for topical issues relating to corruption.

The NACF began preparation for the second National Anti-Corruption Summit. This was to be its first public event since its launch in 2001. The Summit was held on 22 to 23 March 2005 at the CSIR Conference Centre in Pretoria. The theme of the Summit centred on Fighting Corruption Together: Past Achievements, Future Challenges. Similar to the first National Anti-corruption Summit held in 1999, the Second National Anti-corruption Summit presented the opportunity for all sectors of South African society to collectively reflect on past achievements and strategies, future challenges in fighting corruption and then to craft a common programme of action for the immediate and long-term future.

The second national Anti-Corruption Summit was held in March 2005.

The President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr T Mbeki, delivered the Keynote Address at the opening of the Second Summit on 22 March 2005 and in his address indicated that “corruption is inimical to development, it constrains our ability to fight poverty, negatively affects our economic development, damages social values and undermines democracy and good governance. Responding to all of that, in the last ten years we have put in place laws, policies and programmes to root out corruption in our society, established partnerships amongst social partners and collaborated with regional, continental and international partners. Yet more will have to be done to fight corruption and I am confident that this Summit will give more impetus to our ongoing work and help all of us to overcome whatever weaknesses may exist in our programmes and systems, designed to fight corruption”.20

A total of 390 delegates comprising 43 from Business, 191 from the Public Sector, 122 from Civil Society and 34 representing donors and other interested parties including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), attended the Summit. At the Summit delegates adopted a wide range of resolutions centring on ethics and awareness, combating corruption, corruption and transparency and oversight and accountability.

It was agreed to translate the resolutions into a programme of action within three months of the Summit.21 The nature of the resolutions adopted covered, amongst others, the following topics:

  • Encouraging whistleblowing in all sectors.
  • Better coordination amongst anti-corruption agencies.
  • Effective implementation of anti-corruption legislation.
  • Encouraging post-public sector employment regulation.
  • Research into ethics practices in each sector.
  • To extend financial disclosures to local government.
  • To raise awareness through ethics training in all sectors.
  • Institutional arrangements to streamline the NACF.

Over the next few years, these resolutions would form the basis of the national fight against corruption.




THE NATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION PROGRAMME: A PROGRAMME OF ACTION

The partnership of civil society, the public and business sector was further consolidated through the development of a National Anti-Corruption Programme (NAP). The delegates undertook to implement the resolutions as far as it pertains to their individual sectors. The emphasis on the adoption of the 27 resolutions displayed the contention that practical outcomes with regard to the fight against corruption needed to be realized. Emanating from the Summit, the secretariat in conjunction with members of the NACF prepared a draft National Anti-Corruption Programme (NAP) for submission to the NACF.

This draft NAP was presented to the NACF on 12 May 2005. It was agreed that an Implementation Committee be established to oversee and monitor the implementation of NAP projects. One convener from each of the three sectors was appointed to serve on the Implementation Committee. It consists of the Convenor of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, the Chief Executive Officer of Business Against Crime, the Director-General: Department of Public Service and Administration (Chairperson) and the PSC as Secretariat.22

At a special meeting of the NACF held on 24 June 2005 the NAP was adopted and launched as the work programme of the NACF.23 Membership of the sectors was also finalized and a list of members is attached as Annexure B. The NAP was adopted as a two- year programme and it serves as an important barometer against which the public can hold stakeholders accountable. The focus of the NAP was to yield “quick wins”, to enhance the profile of the NACF and to give results that are measurable and practical.

The NAP only focuses on joint projects. Progress on sector-specific projects relating to other resolutions is reported on a regular basis to the NACF and the Implementation Committee during scheduled meetings. The approach of a select number of joint projects has taken into account the need for the NACF to be modest in launching a NAP. This is largely due to limited capacity within the NACF. Fewer projects will ensure better focus and increase the potential for success. Therefore, the Implementation Committee has identified key areas of priority in the fight against corruption and believes that it would be more appropriate to tackle a few high quality projects, campaigns and initiatives rather than commit itself to a long list of projects that the NACF will not be able to deliver on.

Many of the resolutions adopted at the Summit impact on various projects already being implemented at a sectoral level. Each sector has its own reporting mechanisms for these projects. (The list of NAP projects with intended outcomes/outputs are presented in Annexure C.) Government showed its commitment towards the implementation of the projects of the NAP by making funds available to the amount of R4.5 million for the 2006/2007 financial year. This funding is managed by the PSC as Secretariat of the NACF.

Since the development of the NAP the pace of the NACF’s activities has noticeably accelerated. This is largely because activities are structured with defined times, and sectors are held accountable for their undertakings. Furthermore there is an expectation that the NACF must report to all Provincial legislatures and Parliament on their achievements.

Key current projects

Recently three initiatives aimed at improving the image and identity of the NACF were launched. The NACF logo was approved, and soon afterwards the website was launched. The website provides space for the profiling of the NACF and the work of the three sectors. In future, it will also contain case studies on the combating and prevention of corruption. This will afford organizations and individuals fighting corruption an opportunity to benchmark their efforts against those of others and also draw lessons from such case studies.

Thirdly an Integrity Pledge was adopted and signed by the leaders of the various sectors represented on the NACF. All sectors are expected to encourage their members to sign the pledge and to popularize it within their constituencies. Signing the Pledge shows a voluntary commitment by individuals to serve the country and its people with respect, dignity and integrity, and consistent with the values and principles of the Constitution. By signing the Pledge, the NACF members committed themselves to set an example through the promotion of high standards of service and ethical behaviour that are conducive to the development of the economy and the eradication of poverty.

The work of the NACF has also been characterized by some substantial projects that have ignited debate in society at large. Civil society presented a report on Apartheid Grand Corruption sparking intense debate over whether those responsible for corruption during the Apartheid era should be brought to account for such corruption.

The NACF also hosted a Roundtable on the Prohibition of Corrupt Persons and Businesses. The Roundtable was well attended by all sectors as well as academics and other interested role players. It specifically focused on the feasibility of establishing a common database of corrupt persons and businesses for use by all sectors. The challenges in establishing such a database were deliberated and it was agreed that a committee of specialists should, emanating from the Roundtable, meet to discuss and recommend an appropriate course of action for the NACF.

Legislation all over the world is written in traditional legal language which some may find difficult to understand. South Africa’s Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act is no exception. It is for this reason that the NACF decided to popularise the Act by simplifying it through a Guide both in terms of language and through the use of illustrations. The Promotion of Access to Information Act stresses the need for Government to make important information available to the citizenry, which is why the NACF found it necessary to produce the Guide. The NACF hopes that this Guide will raise more awareness on the need to fight corrupt activities, thereby promoting honesty and integrity in a young democracy, which in turn will lead to better and more effective service delivery for all. The NACF believes that by publishing a reader-friendly Guide, it has contributed in a small way towards bringing legislation closer to the people.

It is clear that the NACF has evolved from a relatively inactive past to a present that displays active participation and tangible outcomes.




THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE ENDEAVOUR:

The task of getting three diverse sectors to work together will never be without its challenges. Representatives of the various sectors were interviewed to give their perspectives on the process.24 The following gives a synopsis of the main themes that emerged.

Silence after the storm…

After the initial enthusiasm about the idea of the NACF, a lot of time passed before it started functioning ‘as an entity in itself’. The resolution ‘ to look into the establishment of a National Coordinating Structure…’25 came from the first National Anti-Corruption Summit in April 1999. A task team was put together to look into convening a national cross sectoral anti-corruption body by 11 August 1999. It was however almost two years later, on 15 June 2001 that the NACF was formally launched.

The NACF was launched almost two years after the task team started its work.

This initial delay might be explained by the very problem that the NACF was envisaged to overcome – there was no formal structure for collaboration on this topic. At the time there were also no unified bodies from business or civil society to speak on the issue of corruption. Business Unity South Africa, a merger of the Black Business Council and Business South Africa, was only formed in October 2003. Business Against Crime, which is currently the key business body on the forum, had been formed in 1997, but had little involvement in the early discussions. Civil society was even less organised around the issue.

After the drawn out process of convening the NACF, the inaugural meeting was held promptly on 19 July 2001, but another 16 months passed before the next meeting was held in November 2002. The meeting was eventually convened only after the National Religious Leaders Forum raised the issue of the forum’s inactivity with President Thabo Mbeki. The President tasked Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi (Minister of Public Service and Administration) with getting things moving again, and it was only after this meeting, where she took over the chair, that the NACF started gaining momentum.

Representatives from all the sectors expressed their frustration at this lull in activity. Mr. Roderick Davids of the PSC remembers this as one of the lowest points of the process. “There was so much expectation and then nothing happened. Did we give birth to an organisation that was dying or dead? There was a lot of scepticism that this thing may not work because of the diversity of the role-players, and the difficulty of bringing them together and to concede to a common programme of work. The work programme was regarded as the instrument that would give us impetus and momentum, and if we couldn’t meet we couldn’t even discuss this...”

There was so much expectation and then nothing happened. Did we give birth to an organisation that was dying or dead?

Many offered their diagnosis of the problem. One view is that there was a serious leadership problem. At the inaugural meeting it was decided that Adv. Dali Mpofu (representing Civil Society) should chair the NACF, but there was little movement during his tenure. The Department for Public Service and Administration (DPSA) forwarded proposals for the rejuvenation of the NACF during this time, but got no response.

The inactivity could be put down to the priorities of a busy man, but a contributing factor was the lack of accountability structures within Civil Society. By their very nature business and civil society are not cohesive hierarchical units in the way that government is. There is a much looser organisation of entities around specific concerns in the non-governmental sectors, which means that an individual might not be called to account by their constituencies or leadership as is bound to happen in government.

The lack of accountability structures had a definite impact on the inactivity of the forum

Internal accountability in the non-governmental sectors has improved significantly during the evolution of the forum, but it seems that this accountability stems more from a committed group of peers rather than from constituencies.

High profile players = full diaries.

Another aspect, which added great difficulty to the PSC, as secretariat, in convening the early meetings is the seniority of some of the role players. This was an issue in business and the public sector, but has been more problematic in the case of the latter. All of the government representatives on the NACF are ministers or deputy-ministers and trying to match these diaries proved a near impossibility. While exceptionally well intentioned and showing great commitment from government at a political level, having so many senior politicians onboard had negative administrative consequences. The issue has been raised at a number of NACF meetings, but remains unresolved.

The involvement of high profile players showed political commitment, but arranging meetings was impossible.

Sectoral representatives have differing views on the issue. Some believe it should be resolved through having fewer ministers as representatives, while others believe it would be sufficient if the ministers delegate their representation to specific individuals who can contribute meaningfully and ensure continuity.

The issue of full diaries has been partly overcome by the secretariat sending out known meeting dates annually in advance. Nonetheless, the only time when there was a full ministerial attendance was at the first meeting.

There are however still frustrations, especially from business representatives, that they receive invites to activities at an unrealistically late stage. These are often for meetings where their input is requested, but the late notification makes it impossible for them to participate. A little bit of forward planning can remove this problem, and the fact that this has not happened leads them to feel excluded. Business has raised it in the past and are of the opinion that it still needs to be successfully addressed. Secretariat representatives indicate that decisions of dates for meetings are often communicated to them at a late stage. The other point of communication breakdown could be between the business representatives on the Implementation Committee and their members. 

Constituencies and communication

Many believe that the issue of ‘constituencies’ remains a challenge, especially under civil society representation. How large a segment of the population is in fact represented by civil society and how successfully are they reached by the NACF?

It remains a challenge to get wider constituencies involved.

Many of the NGO’s that have an anti-corruption focus, although advocating the interests of society, do not represent communities. They do not have a large constituency base and speak largely ‘for themselves’. Many have also expressed their dismay at the fact that the workers’ unions have not taken up their involvement as actively as one would’ve wished. The South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) and the National Religious Leaders Forum (NRLF) are the only active members of the forum with constituencies, but two-way communications between constituencies and representatives remains a challenge.

Mr. Hassen Lorgat of SANGOCO and chairperson of the South African chapter of Transparency International (TI-SA) admits to these difficulties. He would like to see more involvement at community level. Through TI-SA they are currently launching ‘National Integrity Networks’, which aims to mobilise communities into grassroots activism. Civil society is however made up of quite a disparate group of interests, which makes it difficult to report back to constituencies without overloading people with information which might not be of interest to them. He acknowledges that the NACF has given civil society an opportunity to focus on one key issue and to organise themselves around it. He does however feel that since serving on the NACF requires one to possess focused expertise on corruption-related matters, it will prove difficult to involve the ‘constituency’ NGO’s. He would however like to see the depth of civil society expertise and contribution increase into the future.

For some of the less well-funded civil society organisations it remains a challenge to attend the NACF meetings and therefore to contribute in a meaningful way. Mr. Ruan Kitshoff of the DPSA suggests that it is the responsibility of the NACF to enable these organisations to participate, not only by providing for their travel to meetings, but also by distributing information which will capacitate them and enable their meaningful contribution.

The NACF have a responsibility to enable smaller NGO’s to participate.

Internal communication within the civil society sector has been improved through the creation of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC). This group of NGO’s have improved accountability and communication among themselves. They are however only one of the ten civil society representatives on the forum, and there is concern that the communication does not reach the rest of the representatives. Mr. Kitshoff comments: “We would meet with a representative from Cape Town, and then at the next meeting it would be a representative from Johannesburg, and in the discussion of issues it becomes clear that they have not communicated on the matters in the interim, which means that the discussion is still open as if no conclusion has been reached.” The problem is not only getting one representative voice, but also continuity and progress on the issues under discussion.

Civil society have improved their internal communication through the creation of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption.

Business has institutionalised its representative structures through an alliance between Business Against Crime (BAC) and Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), who are the most representative body for business in South Africa. BAC has a number of project areas, including Commercial Crime, under which corruption falls. Once a month BAC holds an Industry Alignment Forum (IAF) meeting where a broad range of business organisations are represented, including BUSA.

Every month, just prior to the IAF, a meeting is held by a business anti-corruption working group, which is an extension of the NACF delegation. Feedback is then given to the IAF on the activities of the working group and the NACF projects.

A business anti-corruption working group meets once a month.

Mr. Alvin Rapea, of BAC, admits that there are problems in getting buy-in from more businesses, which has lead to an uncoordinated approach to the addressing corruption within this sector. This, he says, is largely due to the fact that businesses would like to see the impact that programmes are having to their bottom line. He is however confident that business projects launched as a result of the NACF, such as a baseline study into corruption in the private sector, will be successful in garnering more business involvement. The baseline study will show the impact that corruption has on specific industry sectors, which could provide impetus at these levels.

In contrast to the other two sectors, government is a far more cohesive unit, which simplifies their internal communication and accountability. However, in order to reach all departments and levels of government an Anti-Corruption Co-ordinating Committee, consisting of various role players in government, meets regularly to discuss the Public Service Anti-Corruption Strategy. Some provinces have their own co-ordination structures, which are currently being brought into the discussions more consistently.

The secretariat

A number of representatives have expressed their concern about the functioning of the secretariat. At the moment officials from the PSC fulfil their roles in the secretariat in addition to their other tasks, which means that the NACF has no full time staff members. Mr. Ruan Kitshoff of the DPSA stresses that the secretariat should fulfil more than just an administrative function. Like company secretaries, they should keep the members informed on current issues relevant to the work of the forum that should inform the debate and the identification of future priorities.

Mr. Admill Simpson of the PSC however feels that these criticisms belong to a previous era of the NACF. He explains that many of the concerns about the role and capacity of the PSC as secretariat, especially the expectation that it should drive content, have been addressed through the establishment of the cross sectoral Implementation Committee and the development of a NAP. Where it was previously expected of the secretariat to drive content, it has now become the responsibility of the sectoral convenors who serve on the Implementation Committee, as well as the EXCO. The secretariat, being in an independent support role, does not have the authority to act outside of such processes. Therefore any concerns about the secretariat cannot be seen in isolation of the role of the Implementation Committee.

Concerns around the functioning of the secretariat have been addressed through the establishment of the Implementation Committee.

He suspects that there might still be some confusion in the sectors about these new responsibilities. When it comes to attendance to special meetings, or obtaining inputs from within the sectors, the secretariat communicates this to the Implementation Committee representatives. From there on it is their responsibility to communicate and co-ordinate with their sectors. The secretariat however still experiences a lot of frustration at the apparent lack of intra-sectoral communication. In practice this means that they have to follow up on matters such as inputs into combined projects, or ensuring sufficient attendance from the sectors at events.

Treasury has however approved a budget that makes possible the appointment of two full-time PSC employees to focus on NACF matters. This should address any other capacity concerns in the secretariat.

Something for the ‘man on the street’

While a lot has happened in terms of new legislation, anti-corruption institutions and other initiatives, specifically in the public sector, little is known about this by the man on the street. Mr. Peter Just of the National Religious Leaders Forum says that people have the perception that corruption is rife in South Africa and that no one is doing anything about it. He feels that the NACF should be more vocal on issues of concern to ordinary people and build awareness of its activities through engaging with the press.

While not everyone is clear about how to achieve this, all sectors agree that there should be more awareness of the NACF and its activities amongst the public in general. At the end of the day the NACF activities should have a tangible impact on the levels of corruption experienced by ordinary citizens. Since corruption is a societal problem, one also needs awareness of the issue amongst citizens to successfully combat it.

All sectors agree that more awareness is needed about the NACF.

The contribution of the non-governmental sectors

The non-governmental players are not on-board the NACF merely to support government in their Anti-Corruption Strategy. All players acknowledge that civil society and business also have a responsibility to address corruption in their own sectors and still have some way to go making this impact felt. Business is currently completing a survey into corruption in the private sector which could lay the foundation for future work. Organised civil society is however still faced with resource and structural challenges that makes this kind of activity very difficult.

Another matter that gets mentioned rather tentatively is business’s lack of financial or resource contribution to the NACF and its projects. There seems to be agreement that civil society will not be able to contribute beyond their time, networks and expertise, but this is not the case with business. Many roleplayers expect business to bring their resources to the party. This can be financial, or for example making venues available for conferences, providing experts for research or hosting of the website. Some business representatives however feel that the problem is a national one and therefore something that the taxpayer should fund. The NACF and its projects have been quite successful at attracting donor funding to the benefit of all the sectors. Detractors feel that while this gets projects implemented, more financial commitment is needed, especially from business. There is clearly still some discussion to be had on this matter.

Some feel that business should show more financial commitment.

To talk or not to talk…

Although it was decided at the meeting on 17 August 2004 that space should be created for discussion of topical issues, civil society in particular still feels that the forum should be more vocal on current incidents of corruption. Alison Tilley mentions that it is still difficult to talk about real life examples of corruption within the forum. “There is a discussion about corruption, but it’s very much de-identified, which makes the debate abstract. The purpose of the forum is to create a place where the three sectors can talk about how to create a more enabling environment to fight corruption. The quality of the planning to achieve this is totally dependent on the quality of the discussion. If you are really constrained in the quality of the discussion, it impacts on the quality of your planning, which has an effect on outcomes.” That said, civil society does feel that its voice has been heard and that some difficult issues have been discussed at the forum. These notably include the report entitled Apartheid Grand Corruption, and the current NAP project to ‘Establish a joint research initiative to evaluate the implementation by the Executive of resolutions made by Parliament and its committees pertaining to corruption’.

The prominent face of government

An underlying issue that gets mentioned is the fact that the NACF still has a somewhat governmental face, particularly with the Chairperson being the Minister for Public Service and Administration. The other sectors would like to see this change over time, but seem to acknowledge that they will need to achieve more maturity in their own structures before this can happen. Prof. Sangweni, Chairperson of the PSC says that the intention was always to have a partnership of equals. “We all have to maintain the equilibrium of equity in this partnership. But at the same time the government cannot abdicate its institutional responsibility to ensure that action is taken against corruption.”

Government cannot abdicate its responsibility to ensure that action is taken against corruption.

Are some key players missing?

Rather more striking than the ‘governmental face’ is the inactivity of some key government players. Although the Minister of Safety and Security (under whom the South African Police Services falls) and the Deputy Minister of Justice are members of the NACF there is very little input from them or their representatives at forum meetings. Corruption is a problem of societal values, but it also remains a criminal problem. It has often been said that while South Africa has world class legislation and regulations, a lot of work remains in the implementation of these. This certainly implies that these two ministries should have a keen interest in a forum such as the NACF.




AN ACTIVE FORUM

Something that everyone is in agreement on is that at the time of the writing of this case, the NACF was at its most active since its establishment. This activity has been largely attributed to the existence of the National Anti-Corruption Programme. This programme has linked the resolutions of the Second National Anti-Corruption Summit to specific outputs with responsibilities allocated, time frames set and budgets assigned. The existence of the much smaller Implementation Committee, which consists of only one representative per sector, has facilitated quicker communication and provides necessary oversight over the projects. Furthermore, individuals have been nominated to serve on cross-sectoral task teams to implement specific projects. To many people who have been involved since its inception this is the kind of functioning that they have been waiting for.

The much smaller Implementation Committee has facilitated quicker communication.

The nature of the projects is also significant. Many of the legislative and institutional changes in the country had already been implemented as an outcome of the first summit. The second summit had a more difficult task of deepening this work. In compiling the NAP there was a conscious decision to be modest in the tasks taken on, in order to ensure their successful implementation. These programmes also need to provide the foundation for further anti-corruption work and it was therefore important to be strategic in choosing projects that the NACF can build on incrementally.

Current projects provide the foundation for future work.

Mr. Davids of the PSC stresses that the projects must deliver something tangible and sustainable. “We must vigorously implement this anti corruption programme to the best of our ability. We must build on that success. It will give us confidence and it will open up new opportunities. We are starting at the bottom by, for example, doing an ethics scan in schools and tertiary institutions. The outcome of this project will open up new work opportunities. It is important that the projects stem from a mandated summit. We’ve got a good mandate and a good foundation to build on.”

Conclusion

When speaking to representatives one can sense that there is engagement from all parties. It has taken a while for the forum to come to the point where real substantive projects are being implemented which will impact on corruption in South Africa. Initially the forum was a loose grouping of well-intentioned people. As the evolution of the forum points out, it takes a lot more than good intentions to organise three diverse sectors to interact meaningfully and to get to a point where productive work is achieved.




REFERENCES

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