Public Protector proposes anti-corruption measures to the global community

Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday proposed several measures that she said governments across the world could consider to enhance the role of business in the fight against corruption.

She was addressing an event marking the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Global Compact's (UNGC) 10th Principle -a day after the commemoration of international anti-corruption day- in New York, United States of America.

The UNGC is an initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations with universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Its 10th Principle calls on business to work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

The event was predominantly attended by participants from business and investment, who discussed topics ranging from anti-corruption efforts in emerging markets and the role of investors in incentivising good governance to corruption in the banking sector and the importance of collective action.

In her address, Public Protector Madonsela proposed that governments should consider incentivising voluntary disclosure of corrupt activities by business; tightening whistle-blower protection laws and extending the protections thereof to business; and accepting constructive feedback from business.

Blacklisting of businesses with corrupt practices, whitelisting of exemplary businesses and consistency in action taken against those without scruples were some of the other proposals she brought to the table.

Regarding incentivising voluntary disclosures, Public Protector Madonsela gave an example of a South African company that recently made national headlines for reportedly rejecting a $20million contract on the alleged basis that a lawful bidding process was not followed prior to the awarding of the tender.

"You will agree with me that if a state contract was indeed awarded without a bidding process as reported, that transaction was most likely a corrupt one," she said.

Commending the conduct of the directors of the said company as exemplary, Public Protector Madonsela said the manner in which they handled the matter was globally recognised as voluntary disclosure, a practice she said the global community against corruption was beginning to warm up to.

This approach, she said, had been explored as a possible meaningful contributor to anti-corruption efforts by among others the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Agenda Summit in Dubai, Transparency International's (TI) PACI and the Pearl Foundation.

However, linked to an effective voluntary disclosure was the need for some protection of both the companies and whistle-blowers. "For example," Public Protector Madonsela said, "voluntary disclosure may mean some relaxation of certain criminal justice implications such as jailing of directors."

Nevertheless, she emphasised that voluntary disclosure should not be without restorative justice, explaining that she had seen legitimacy eroded when disclosures were made but state resources, for instance, not being clawed back.

She said disclosures should be made to appropriate law enforcement agencies or regulatory bodies. In the South African context, these would be her office office or that of the Auditor-General, as provided for in the Protected Disclosures Act.

To further encourage whistle-blowing, Public Protector Madonsela said governments could consider bounty laws, where those who blew the whistle are rewarded.

There was also a need for consistency regarding action taken against businesses found to have acted corruptly, Public Protector Madonsela said. "When there is a sense that some are targeted while the powerfully-connected get away with corruption, others seek to establish their own powerful connections or to undermine the system in whatever means available to them," she said. Linked to this was the importance of a transparent blacklist and its opposite, the whitelist.

Public Protector Madonsela noted that a lot of progress in the fight against corruption had been recorded over the years. This included the passing of laws prohibiting corruption, with institutions and systems set up to end the scourge.

She noted that the anti-corruption convention had thus far been signed by 140 countries and that blatant forms of corruption such as embezzlement of public funds in the developing world and placing such funds in private accounts in the developed world were no longer the norm and that other illicit capital outflows were being attended to.

"The future is hope-filled ... the tide is turning against corruption as many emerging thoughts and initiatives are addressing the gaps while showing stronger political will," Public Protector Madonsela said.

"The world we yearn for lies in our all hands. That is the world that requires states that are accountable, operate with integrity at all times and are responsive to all people. That is a world that is inclusive, fair and just with every person's potential freed."

For more information, contact:
Oupa Segalwe
Acting Spokesperson
Public Protector South Africa
(012) 366 7035
072 264 3273
Twitter: @PublicProtector
Facebook: Public Protector South Africa

Published Date: 
Thursday, December 11, 2014