What is govt doing to stop the cancer of corruption? - Kenneth Meshoe

ACDP leader calls on president to come clean about Chancellor House and Eskom

Speech by Rev Kenneth Meshoe, MP, president of the African Christian Democratic Party, during the debate on President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address, February 15 2010

"The ACDP joins other speakers in thanking the President for dedicating this debate to former President, Nelson Mandela, for his legacy of forgiveness, reconciliation and nation-building.

One of the positive things announced by the President, which has given us hope that we might see improved service delivery, is the announcement that the work of departments will be measured by outcomes and that ministers who are responsible for a particular outcome will sign a detailed Delivery Agreement with the President.

Questions that arise from this announcement include:

(i) will the key outcomes of what ministers will be held accountable for be made public? If yes, when will they be made public? If no, how will people confirm that ministers are performing optimally and their departments efficiently if they do not know what the expected outcomes are?

 (ii) will the President be monitoring delivery progress alone or with cabinet ministers who might be tempted to protect and defend their colleagues or will he appoint a body of objective, apolitical and independent panellists to help him with the assessments?

(iii) what will happen if ministers fails to deliver? Will they be fired, demoted or deployed to other departments as has happened many times before?

In his first State of the Nation Address on 3 June 2009, the President said one of the ten priorities of government was to intensify the fight against crime and corruption. However, in his Thursday night speech he spoke only about fighting crime as one of government's five priorities. We want to know why fighting corruption is no longer a priority of government.  Corruption in this country is a pandemic that seriously undermines economic development and growth.

It was reported a few months ago that more than 2 000 corrupt civil servants rigged government tenders worth more than R600 million and that poor procurement policies, strategies and systems were costing both the South African private sector and the government dearly with losses amounting to more than R25 billion each year. How can the fight against corruption not be among government's top five priorities when so much money is being stolen by government employees?

Just recently, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan revealed in Parliament that government, for example, pays more than private business for everything it purchases - some estimates indicate as much as 10 to 30% more - despite government's potential bargaining power. This is nothing but a waste of taxpayer's money that the ACDP strongly condemns.

Besides the efforts of the Finance Minister to address the corrupt tendering system, particularly in the Limpopo province, we want to know what else government is doing to stop this cancer?  We also want to know what government is doing about the frustration expressed by the head of the Special Investigative Unit, Mr. Willie Hofmeyr, before SCOPA last month. He is reported to have said that government has failed to deal decisively with cases of corruption identified by his staff. As he identified disciplinary processes "a weakness of government", he also said there are cases of a really serious nature where disciplinary action does not take place. Mr Hofmeyr concluded that the possible reason for this lack of decisive action could be the progressive labour legislation that is preventing government from firing corrupt officials.

The ACDP wants to know when government is going to do away with lengthy disciplinary processes and suspending corrupt civil servants on full salary. We believe certain labour laws must be revisited and amended to make it easier for employers, including government, to criminally charge thieves and corrupt officials and fire lazy workers.

We heard this past week that the Eastern Cape department of health has overspent by almost R2 billion due to fraud, corruption, dishonesty and financial mismanagement. As a result, there's no money to pay health workers and municipalities such as the Baviaans Municipality. The mere suspension of senior officials for using emergency aircraft intended to ferry sick people, to go to Bloemfontein to watch a soccer match is disgraceful. Will the President ensure that these officials do not just get away with a slap on the wrist in the form of a suspension with full pay and that those who are guilty of corruption are charged and prosecuted?

I did not understand what the President meant by saying, and I quote "We will implement ALL the undertakings made on World Aids Day relating to new HIV prevention and treatment measures" end quote. Does he still believe in government's ABC strategy that, in our view, he has undermined and acted against? What are the NEW HIV prevention measures that the President referred to?

The ACDP further wants to know from the President what government's latest position is on Eskom's proposed 35% per annum electricity tariff hike for the next three years, particularly so because of reported compelling reasons to believe the ANC will benefit from the proposed tariff hikes.

Is it true, Mr President, that the ANC's  share in this deal, through Chancellor House that holds a 25% stake in Hitachi that won  a tender to build the R20 billion Medupi boiler in Limpopo in 2005, is worth more than R5.7 billion? If this is true, Mr President, then this would be another form of corruption by the majority party. To hear the ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe saying there is nothing wrong with the party holding a stake in Hitachi was shocking. We hope by now that Matthews Phosa has taken steps to disinvest the ANC's interest in Hitachi as he promised. If this is not done, then the poorest of the poor in our country must be informed about the deception of this party that claims to speak on their behalf whilst behind their backs they actively collude with Eskom's greed, exploitation and self-enriching price increases.

The ACDP supports calls to invest in the unused potential of SA's coastal wind and solar resources rather than building two huge coal power stations that would undermine our commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

In conclusion Mr President, may I urge you and your government to work faster and harder to ensure that your administration performs better and responds faster to the needs of our people because the writing is on the wall. As you know honourable President, the ACDP objected to the opening of parliament at night, something that is not done in any democratic country in the world. I nevertheless believe that what happened on Thursday night the 11th of February 2010 was prophetic. The sun is setting on you and the ANC, Mr President. Violent protests at Balfour this past week, after your visit to the area and after the subsequent visit of a nine member Ministerial team are sending a clear message to government. People are running out of patience and they want service delivery now. Fix our roads that are in a deplorable state, eradicate poverty, high unemployment, illiteracy, corruption and crime urgently or you might not have another opportunity to give another State of the Nation Address."

Issued by the ACDP, February 15 2010

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