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COVID-19 and corruption in South Africa

On the 30th January 2020 the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 situation a “public emergency”. On the 11th March it was further qualified as a “global pandemic”. With this, questions have been raised regarding the management of COVID-19 funds in South Africa. With a growing number of COVID-19 patients it is becoming increasingly important that the funds dedicated to COVID-19 relief are not misappropriated.

One area where funds are being allocated incorrectly is with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); with corruption leading to overpricing and underdelivering. Not only is the quality of the COVID-19 relief efforts brought into question, so too is the concern about the misuse of funds especially when it comes to international donors.

Transparency International presents the corruption perceptions index. This is a yearly glance at the relative degree of corruption by ranking countries around the globe. South Africa ranks as number 44 out of 100 countries respectively.

COVID-19 and corruption in South Africa

DW (2020) states:

“Anti-corruption groups in South Africa say that in Gauteng alone, some 91 companies who received purchase orders from the Department of Health are under investigation”.

Botswana centre for Public Integrity urged the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to accelerate government’s response to the global pandemic to minimize corruption describing the problem as chronic. This is not only a South African problem.

“An April 2020 survey of anti-fraud professionals in 58 countries reported widespread incidents of fraud in the acquisition of personal protective equipment, black market goods, and faulty equipment. Cases of embezzlement were reported in 58 percent of countries surveyed by 19 percent of respondents, distributed unequally across the countries’ surveyed. Bribes were reported in 22 percent of countries by 3 percent of respondents” (Nemexis, 2020).

 

What are some solutions to corruption?

It is important to limit corruption up-front when considering stimulus programs especially where competition for resources is rife. What makes South Africa vulnerable to corruption?

  1. Government is not responding rapidly to fast-changing circumstances and often taps into reserved or donated funds to use in a short amount of time. These funds become easily accessible during a crisis, and they are left vulnerable to tampering.
  2. COVID-19 has left governments needing to be alert and prompt with their policy responses with few precedents to draw on, allowing for the risk of a lack of transparency and self-dealing.

There is fierce competition amidst the pandemic for essential resources and with apparent corruption we are forced to look for alternative measures to combat it. Some of these include globally recognised standards like ISO 37001:2016. This standard is an anti-bribery management tool that detects, addresses and prevents bribery by adopting anti-bribery policies. It is appropriate for any size organisation and any nature of bribery.

 

What is ISO 37001:2016?

ISO 37001:2016 mirrors international best practice and can be used in all areas. It sets out the guidelines for establishing an efficient anti-bribery system.

  1. This standard includes:
  2. The appointment of a person to oversee compliance to the standard.
  3. Training.
  4. Financial and commercial tools.
  5. A risk assessment.
  6. The institution of reporting and investigative procedures.

It addresses the following:

  • Bribery in and by an organisation.
  • Bribery by persons acting on behalf of an organisation.
  • Bribery of business associates.

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