Time to close gaps in laws on misuse of public funds
The Times Editorial: Deliberations in parliament yesterday by the standing committee on public accounts - an oversight body constituted to hold to account heads of government departments whose administrators continuously waste public funds - are encouraging.
Our politicians at last have woken up and realised that some of our laws give room to the "I don't care attitude" by officials who continue to waste public funds knowing that there are no dire consequences in store for them.
Yesterday, the committee's chairman, Themba Godi, said that, although directors-general and heads of department could face criminal charges for gross negligence, accounting officers, under the present laws, can escape punishment.
The outcome of this flaw in South African law, according to Godi, is that no heads of department have been criminally prosecuted, even though the state has suffered losses amounting to billions of rands.
"How do we as oversight link with law enforcement, so that when we have instances we believe need to be looked at criminally we are not beholden to what the DGs may or may not do," Godi asked yesterday.
Last month, Special Investigating Unit boss Willie Hofmeyr revealed that between R25-billion and R30-billion of the government's procurement budget was lost annually to corruption, negligence and incompetence by public officials.
What is shocking to citizens is that South Africa boasts good laws and policies on how to fight corruption. But those involved in corruption know that these laws are seldom effectively implemented if you are caught, which is why the culture of impunity is spreading unabated.
If President Jacob Zuma and his government are to win the war against corruption, action must be swift. And all - from the president to a clerk in a regional office - must know that corruption will not be tolerated.