More needs to be done if we are to win the fight against corruption, says Deputy Public Protector
Deputy Public Protector Adv. Kholeka Gcaleka has called for more safeguards to keep whistle-blowers out of harm’s way, explaining that reporting corruption increasingly carries with it the dangers of dismissal from work, demotion, harassment and, in extreme cases, death.
Addressing the launch of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department Internal Affairs Pro-Active Unit’s Anti-Corruption Ambassador Recruitment Drive on Friday, Adv. Gcaleka said most people were keen to report corruption but were often discouraged by the potential of retaliatory action on the part of the perpetrators.
“People do want to report corruption. However, reporting the corrupt often comes at a heavy price. Whistle-blowers regularly face retaliation and persecution for their role in uncovering corruption,” she said, adding that those who dare to go against the grain such as slain Gauteng provincial government official, Babita Deokaran, pay with their lives.
In her keynote address, Adv. Gcaleka acknowledged that the country boasted some of the most elaborate corruption-busting legal and policy framework in the world. This, she added, was buttressed by a host of institutions with adequate teeth to tackle graft and yet there appeared to be lack of enthusiasm to use such tools to stem malfeasance.
She explained that, without a resolute implementation of anti-corruption law and policy, coupled with a strong will to go after the corrupt, the crusade against the malady would not bear as much fruit as it could potentially do.
She added that an urgent need existed for anti-corruption bodies to be granted the authority, confidence, independence and resources they need to hold not only ordinary people to account but the powerful and influential too.
While recognising that a lot of traffic officers across the country faced serious fraud and corruption charges relating to the issuing of driving licences, among other things, Adv. Gcaleka, criticised the tendency to focus only on low-level officers as the face of corrupt activities such as the solicitation or offer of a “cool drink” — a euphemism for a bribe — in exchange for clemency towards offenders.
“What does it say about your leadership if your officers are involved in this? Would you say you are ethical and professional leaders?” she asked metro police top brass.
She cited a case the Public Protector investigated concerning alleged improper conduct within the leadership of the JMPD academy, saying there would be no hope for the officers produced by the institution if those responsible to teach ethics were themselves the subject of conduct failure investigations.
According to the JMPD, the Anti-Corruption Ambassador Recruitment Drive is about getting the public to be the eyes and ears that watch out against unethical conduct within the ranks of city police. The department’s Internal Affairs Pro-Active Unit seeks to instil an ethos of integrity, professionalism and accountability among officers.