4 April 2003

UN Drug Office and South Africa Launch Country Corruption Assessment Report

VIENNA, 4 April (UN Information Service) -- A joint report on corruption by the United Nations and the Government of South Africa was presented to the country's Parliament and public on 2 April. The Country Corruption Assessment Report was prepared within the framework of the United Nations Global Programme against Corruption and the project of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to support South Africa's Anti-Corruption Programme.

The Report is the first comprehensive description and analysis of the corruption and anti-corruption scenario in South Africa. Nationally, the Report indicates that four in ten South Africans believe that corruption is one of the most important problems that needs to be addressed, and 61 per cent in the business sector believe that corruption is a serious problem. The Report analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the legislative framework; institutional capacities for prevention, investigation and prosecution; management policy and practice; ethics and public education; and role of civil society, mass media and political parties. It also examines the position of South Africa within the global and regional contexts. The analysis of each of these topics is followed by a set of strategic and operational recommendations.

The joint UNODC/Government of South Africa Country Corruption Assessment Report was received in the Parliament and then launched publicly by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Frene Ginwala, the Minister for Public Service and Administration, Ms. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, and the Representative of the UNODC, Regional Office for Southern Africa, Mr. Rob Boone.

The main findings of the Report are that:

There is expressed political will in South Africa to address this problem.

South Africa contributes actively and substantially to international and regional anti-corruption efforts. Several pieces of legislation and enforcement structures are unique in the region and of the highest international standards.

The country is improving in terms of legislation, though it is still lacking a comprehensive, specific anti-corruption law. Such legislation is currently under consideration by Parliament. There also is no legislation regulating private funding of political parties and campaigns.

South Africa is improving in terms of increased institutional capacity to investigate and prosecute corrupt practices. However, there is a need to enhance management capacities of individual government departments and to promote and strengthen coordination among anti-corruption entities.

Two of the elements in the South African anti-corruption arena which require major efforts are public education and systematic prevention. International experience clearly highlights the role of the community, schools and faith-based organizations in anti-corruption education and the upholding of individual and social ethics. Prevention of corruption requires mechanisms in both the public and business sectors. Thus, the efficiency of the National Anti-Corruption Forum should be strengthened with the active participation of civil society and business.

International experience clearly shows that without the creation and regular updating of a comprehensive database on corruption and anti-corruption measures, including research and monitoring, no well informed anti-corruption policy can be formulated or evaluated. Thus, there is a need to invest in coordinated anti-corruption data gathering and analysis.

By international standards, South Africa belongs to the group of countries that occupy a middle position regarding its vulnerability to corruption. This is clearly the position of South Africa with respect to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, as well as the International Crime Victim Survey. Both on the perception and experience scales, South Africa ranks in the middle. Among developing countries, South Africa is perceived as one of the least corrupt and whose citizens are less exposed to public sector corruption. Yet, international experience shows that with systematic implementation of anti-corruption programmes, countries can improve their rankings and citizens' confidence in government can improve as well.

In matters of confidence in government and perception of corruption, public opinion matters considerably. In South Africa there is a need to increase the confidence of domestic public opinion and international opinion through a strong and decisive message of "No tolerance and no exemptions".

These are also political matters, and thus there is a need for appropriate and timely political engagement with resolute leadership by political parties in the fight against corruption and in support of the government's efforts. Political usage of the anti-corruption agenda to deal with political adversaries, however, must be avoided through effective and independent legal procedures.

In concluding his presentation of the Report, the UNODC representative emphasized that UNODC was dedicated to promoting international cooperation in the prevention of and fight against corruption and related threats such as drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism. He noted that UNODC's experience with South Africa was exemplary, and that there was a strong commitment to continue with their joint efforts, in a true partnership, toward reducing corruption in South Africa, the region and the world at large.

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(The Report is available in hard copy through the UNODC and will be placed both on the South Africa's Government website, as well as on the UNODC Vienna and Pretoria websites.)