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Anti-Corruption Chief Warns South Africa

The chief of an international anti-corruption agency has sounded a warning to Africa’s strongest economy … Global Integrity – GI - director, Marianne Camerer, said despite South Africa making notable gains in its fight to stem graft, opportunities still existed for high-level corruption in the country.

Global Integrity is unique amongst organizations that assess corruption internationally. Rather than measuring mere perceptions of graft by analyzing media reports, for example, GI employs teams of in-country experts to determine actual raw data. They consider laws in place to fight corruption, and if – and how – those laws are employed.

GI recently released a report ranking fifteen African countries on their efforts to curb graft. Perhaps unsurprisingly – given the level of development in one of Africa’s leading democracies, South Africa topped the list as having the best anti-corruption legislation on the continent. It is the only country in Africa to receive a rating of ‘Very Good’ in GI’s annual Integrity Index of indicators that assess graft.

Camerer said South Africa had the necessary legislation in place to curb corruption, and that arrests and prosecutions frequently resulted through their effective application ... All the same, she maintained, there was still room for high-level corruption in South Africa.

“One of the laws that hasn’t been passed in South Africa is how to regulate what money flows into the political process. And this is important so that you prevent a situation where there are conflicts of interest. We don’t have any regulation in South Africa which limits foreign funding to the political process, or foreign companies. We just don’t know at the moment who is funding the political process (in South Africa),” Camerer commented.

She said it remained possible for an international company or government to covertly fund South Africa’s ruling African National Congress – and thereby be in a prime position to influence policy-making and allocations of lucrative contracts. Camerer added that the South African public shared the blame for this scenario, along with the country’s politicians and parliamentarians.

“The challenge is for civil society, for ordinary citizens, to say that they actually want to know what the situation is. It’s up to political parties at the end of the day and the leading party to show the political will to be fully transparent and accountable, as what’s required in the South African constitution,” she said, stating that South Africans were not putting enough pressure on the authorities to disclose their sources of funding ... This, she emphasized, allowed political financing to continue unchecked, and was casting a shadow over South Africa’s anti-corruption campaign.

“There just seems to be reticence among political parties and businesses themselves. And this is this conspiracy of silence, which is unclear why people wouldn’t want to know who they support; is it because they might get contracts, or might not get contracts if it’s disclosed which political position and party they support? If you’re really committed to public integrity, that means you don’t have anything to hide,” Camerer quipped.

A transparent campaign against graft, and the passing and implementation of adequate legislation, is especially important to South Africa, given that the country will be the focus of international attention in April when it hosts the Global Forum, an international anti-corruption conference attended by representatives of governments from around the world.