Public Protector warns of 'monopoly of decision-making'

Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Tuesday cautioned against what she termed a "monopoly of decision-making" in society, arguing that if unchecked the practice would create favourable conditions for corruption to flourish.

Addressing the 35th Crime Stoppers International Conference in Cape Town, Public Protector Madonsela also called for the limiting of unfettered discretion and accountability.

Quoting a formula popularized by Professor Robert Klitgaard, Public Protector Madonsela said corruption flourished when there was a monopoly on decision-making and blank-cheque approach to discretion, with the absence of accountability.

Making an example of the apartheid state, she said that regime allowed a monopoly of decision-making minus many contemporary safeguards of excesses such as transparency and supervised exercise of public power.

The final say in many instances then, Public Protector Madonsela said, was with either the Executive or the Legislature.

She said, however, that unlike the apartheid administration, democratic South Africa had a constitutional system that minimized corruption while maximizing accountability. She said her office was part of the constitutional system that minimised corruption and increased accountability, calling for the strenthening of synergies between agencies operating within this system.

If society was to make inroads in the fight against corruption and other crimes, Public Protector Madonsela said, "small" things such as accepting or offering a bribe for the violation of traffic rules needed to have big consequences.

"We must shun and deal with retail or small acts of corruption as they foster a culture of acceptance of wrong," she said. "We need to shun corruption wherever it surfaces."

Public Protector Madonsela called an end to impunity, saying no one, in particular those exercising power and control over state resources, should escape scrutiny and accountability.

"If criminals know they can play the system to evade accountability, more will do the same and before we realise what is happening, the rule of law will be undermined," she said.

Public Protector Madonsela said corruption was more a societal problem than it was a government matter. She reiterated the point that South Africa was not a corrupt country, rather a country with a problem of corruption.

She said the country should work hard to improve on its governance ratings, noting that this year's Ibrahim Index of African Governance placed South Africa on the fourth spot after Mauritius, Cape Verde and Botswana.

Public Protector Madonsela said the country owed its success to the legal framework and an arsenal of watchdogs that safeguarded it from rampant corruption. She said South Africa's integrity system was built to last.

Public Protector Madonsela added that the country's constitutional architecture of accountability system, particularly in the public sector, was designed in a manner that fosters synergies that limit impunity.

She called for the respect the Constitution and the rule of law, with the understanding that no one person was above the law.

Public Protector Madonsela further called on society to report acts of corrupt, cautioning against turning a blind eye on wrongdoing. She also called for the protection of whistleblowers.

For more information, contact:
Oupa Segalwe
Manager: Outreach, Education and Communications
Public Protector South Africa
(012) 366 7035
072 264 3273

Published Date: 
Tuesday, October 14, 2014