Corruption observed in the South African public schooling system was the most ‘disturbing’ form reported to civil society group Corruption Watch (CW) in the past year, the organisation told members of the media at a briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday.
While school-related corruption was only the third-highest form reported to the organisation, at 11%, CW executive director Davis Lewis said it was particularly distressing, as it indicated that parents, through their positions on school governing bodies, were involved in the corrupt awarding of tenders.
It also involved the theft of funds, goods and equipment by principals and teachers.
“We are not talking about the arms deal here, we’re talking about small amounts of money, but this could be the difference between whether or not a school receives its deserved classroom, computer centre or textbooks,” he said.
CW would continue to engage with the provincial departments of education to tackle the schools corruption crisis and would make it a key focus for this year.
“We appeal to the public to inform us about corrupt activities in schools to promote awareness and to work alongside communities in eradication efforts,” Lewis noted.
Further, the organisation reported that, in total, more than 3 223 incidents of corruption were reported to the organisation between January and December 2012, with 22.6% related to municipal corruption and 14.4% relating to corruption within the traffic police, which was linked to bribery on the roads and during the licencing of drivers.
Around one-quarter of the total number of incidents reported to CW – some 1 227 – involved the abuse of public resources by individuals either in government, the private sector, or both.
“The highest incidents of corruption – 22% of all reports – are experienced at local government level and point to abuse of power and resources by public officials, particularly in the procurement of goods and services,” said Lewis.
Corruption had been widely reported during procurement activities in the form of individuals channelling funds to personal accounts as well as in the exertion of power to conceal criminal acts and the distribution of funds and food to secure votes in local elections.
He added that reports of incidents occurring in smaller towns and nonmetro centres made up 42% of the total number of corruption reports, which indicated a lack of adequate policing mechanisms in these areas.
CW said that, while it had not yet taken legal or civil action against exposed corrupt individuals, it would consider the pursuance of civil litigation under the little-known Section 34 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.
Section 34 compelled any person who held a position of authority and who knew or ought reasonably to have known or suspected that any other person had committed, besides others, offences of fraud, extortion or corruption involving an amount of R100 000 or more, to report such knowledge or be guilty of an offence.
“We want to compel prosecution around the reporting of corruption and are actively exploring this piece of legislation,” Lewis said.
CW added that the data collected in 2012 informed its strategy for this year of focusing on corruption in the public education system, small towns and during procurement processes.