Failure to move above the mark for nearly 10 years is a damning indictment of the extent of corruption and its damage: Corruption Watch
Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) has shown how corruption has impacted the ability of countries around the world, including SA, to manage their health-care responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report said Covid-19 was not just a health and economic crisis, but a corruption crisis as well, with countless lives lost due to the insidious effect of corruption undermining a fair and equitable global response.
The report showed that SA has barely shifted its position, coming in again with a score of 44 out of 100 and a rank of 69, alongside Bulgaria, Hungary, Jamaica, Romania and Tunisia.
The Corruption Perception Index scores and ranks 180 countries around the world based on perceptions of corruption in the public sector, drawing on 13 expert assessments and surveys of businesspeople.
It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
The countries which scored highest are New Zealand and Denmark, with scores of 88 each. They are closely followed by Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland, with scores of 85 each.
For the past eight years, SA has been more or less stuck at 44, forming part of the two-thirds of countries with a score below 50, indicating serious levels of corruption.
With a score of 66, Seychelles consistently earns the top mark in the sub-Saharan region, followed by Botswana (60) and Cape Verde (58).
The report said across the region, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted national gaps in national health-care systems, corruption risks associated with public procurement and the misappropriation of emergency funds.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said SA’s failure to move above the 50-point mark on the index for nearly 10 years was a damning indictment of the extent of corruption and how damaging it had been to the country.
“Public trust in government has been further eroded during the Covid-19 pandemic, as blatant flouting of procurement processes has characterised the purchase of personal protective equipment, at a time when all of society needs to work together with integrity,” Lewis said.
The report said to fight Covid-19 and curb corruption, it was essential for countries to strengthen their oversight institutions to ensure that resources cater for those most in need and are not subject to theft by the corrupt.
“The Covid-19 response exposed vulnerabilities of weak oversight and inadequate transparency,” the report said.
It also said it was essential for countries to ensure open and transparent contracting.
“Many governments have drastically reduced procurement processes. These rushed and opaque procedures provide ample opportunity for corruption and the diversion of public resources.”
The report also advocated for the publishing of relevant data on spending and distribution of resources.
It said publication was particularly relevant in emergency situations to ensure fair and equitable policy responses.
“Governments should also ensure people receive easily accessible, timely and meaningful information by guaranteeing their rights to access to information.”
“As for South Africa’s ability to emerge from its stagnant position in the future, there are some signs that with the right attitude and commitment, and real changes to policies and processes, the opportunities for corruption could be reduced,” Lewis said.
by Ernest Mabuza