Date: 12 March 2007
For Immediate Release
MEETING OF THE NATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION FORUM (NACF) HELD ON 12 MARCH 2007
In its continued efforts to provide a cross-sectoral response to corruption and the promotion of integrity within the country, the National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF) met on 12 March 2007.
At the previous meeting of the NACF the focus was on corruption in the Public Service through a discussion of the cases of corruption reported to the National Anti-Corruption Hotline. Today’s focus was on the role of the media in the reporting of corruption and the extent of corruption in the Private Sector.
The NACF received a presentation on investigative journalism on corruption by the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF). The presentation provided an overview of the reporting of corruption in the media and the areas of prevalence. It was acknowledged that in most cases it is Government that exposes corruption, and that not enough positive articles are placed on the good work that is being done in combating and preventing corruption. Rather, high profile cases (such as the Jacob Zuma trial and Travelgate) are targeted. Such reporting contributes to the negative psychosis of South Africa being generally corrupt.
It noted that in the past year, the focus of the media has not only been on Government. According to SANEF, the media’s attention has increasingly been placed on the role of business in corruption.
Following the presentation there was a robust discussion on the role of the media in fighting corruption. The participation of SANEF in the NACF was welcomed. Participants questioned the role of the media in the reporting of corruption. The feeling was the media should go beyond investigative reporting to include a more empowering and educational role in creating understanding of corruption, awareness of corruption reporting mechanisms and the rights of citizens. Positive developments in the combating of corruption should be reported upon more vigorously, and the need for diversification of the media was also noted. The meeting emphasized the importance of a code of conduct for editors, the need for a public peer review of the media and the importance for the media to campaign for transparency within their own media houses.
It was indicated that in order to ensure that the media exercise its responsibility ethically and in line with the Constitution, SANEF plays a watchdog role and strives to exercise the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution for the benefit of the public. It attempts to promote good and ethical journalism and has encouraged newspapers to build investigative journalism capacity. It is, however, wrong to exploit someone’s plight in order to sell newspapers.
The significance of the NACF as a cross-sectoral body was noted. This is the first time in which the different stakeholders were able to engage the media on its role.
The meeting was also presented with the findings of a base-line study on corruption in the South African Private Sector. The purpose of the study was to asses the nature and frequency of corruption within the private sector and the instruments and mechanisms that are used for preventing, detecting and responding to corruption. The sample of the study covered a total of 760 companies, 14 Industry sectors and all of the nine provinces. The study showed that Bribes are offered or demanded mostly by another company followed by third part ies or intermediaries. It was also found that middle management is mostly involved in accepting and demanding bribes as well as offering and paying bribes.
The NACF welcomed the report by Business. The study confirms that corruption takes place within the business sector as well as between the private and public sectors. It also shows that there are limitations in the corporate governance framework regarding specific anti-corruption facilities. It was noted that deeper compliance to corporate governance is required. However, efforts are under way in the amendment to the Companies Act to strengthen this. Whistleblowing in particular requires greater attention. The study also showed that cooperation with law enforcement agencies needs strengthening and that 79% of companies surveyed are not aware of the legal requirement to report corruption to the SA Police Services.
The study showed a huge discrepancy between what people perceived and what they experienced. Experience shows that bribes are offered in 11,5% of those companies surveyed and yet the perception shows that 74% believe corruption occurs because of poor ethical culture. This shows that negative perceptions are one of the biggest challenges we have in the fight against corruption.
Civil Society announced the launch of the Whistleblowing School competition in which learners will write essays about whistleblowing and related issues. This is an attempt to promote a new understanding of whistleblowing with learners.
The outcomes of the 2 nd Meeting of the Pan African Anti-Corruption Bodies and the Africa Forum and Fighting Corruption were discussed. The main issues highlighted from these meetings were the need for African Countries to ratify the African Union and regional anti-corruption conventions, the domestication in law of these conventions, the establishment of the Advisory Board within the AU, the need for greater awareness raising, better coordination of anti-corruption initiatives, improved interstate coordination and capacity building. These matters were underscored by the common understanding of corruption and the need for leadership by example within the continent and Member States.
This common understanding which includes an appreciation of the multi-sectoral multifaceted character of corruption as well as the importance of values and leadership encapsulated in a national integrity system is key to effective anti-corruption strategies and their implementation. These approaches will be included into the discourse and programme of the Global Forum V for Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity to be held from 2 to 5 April 2007 at the Sandton Convention Centre. Key issues which will be discussed at Global Forum V include strengthening actions for effective implementation of ant-corruption measures, the role of civil society, law enforcement and national integrity systems.
There was a discussion of the establishment of Provincial Anti-Corruption Fora. Representatives of provinces reflected on progress with the establishment of Provincial Fora. Progress is uneven among the provinces. NACF encouraged the establishment of such Fora and better collaboration between the provincial and national anti- corruption structures and look forward to the eventual integration with the NACF.
Mr Lewis Rabkin – 082 497 3220
Mr Humphrey Ramafoko – 082 782 1730