Unite 4 Mzansi: CAN WE END CORRUPTION?

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Recognising its immense responsibility as a profession to tackle issues that stand in the way of South Africa growing a strong and sustainable economy, SAICA launched an active citizenry initiative called Unite 4 Mzansi. The campaign is seeking the support of millions of South Africans in taking a strong stand against corruption. And that includes you.

International counterparts frequently comment on the vibrancy and diversity of South Africa’s culture and society. Indeed, a recent clever television advert for a South African insurer featuring foreign tourists talking about load-shedding, car guards and other things associated with living in South Africa, reinforces these observations. While we have become accustomed to laughing about the things that make South Africa the unique place it is, other typical national problems like crime and corruption are no laughing matter.

Corruption has become so endemic that it amounts to billions of rand each year and is just as rife in the private sector as it is in the public sector. But do we as citizens of this country really understand what corruption is costing us?

STUDIES SHOW CORRUPTION IS ON A RAMPANT RISE

According to a Global Economic Crime Survey conducted by PwC, a staggering 69% of South African organisations reported economic crime last year. This puts South Africa’s level of economic crime ahead of those of France (68%), Zambia (61%), Kenya (61%), the UK (55%), Spain (55%) and Australia (52%).

As a PwC Forensic Services head commented: ‘We are faced with the stark reality that economic crime is at a pandemic level in South Africa.’ The losses reported are sizeable. Almost a fifth of local respondents in a PwC survey on this issue experienced losses of between R1,6 million and R15,7 million. One in four respondents indicated losses in excess of R15,7 million.

Statistics like this confirm that corruption is getting progressively worse. Back in 2000, the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), an index covering 90 countries, ranked South Africa as the 34th most corrupt country in the world. Just 15 years later, South Africa’s score had slid to 44 out of 168 countries. This means that South Africa is now ranked among those countries perceived to have a serious corruption problem. This fact was further driven home by the recent United Nations and Transparency International 2016 annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranked South Africa as the most corrupt country in the world after it received the lowest score due to widespread signs of bribery, lack of punishment for corruption, and public institutions that don’t respond to citizen’s needs.

It is a worrying trend and one that the Human Sciences Research Council’s (HSRC) annual South African Social Attitudes Survey shows is clearly on all South Africans’ minds, as the survey indicates that the number of people who think that tackling corruption should be a national priority has almost doubled.

COUNTING THE TRUE COST

Even more worrying than the dismal global corruption ranking is the increasing burden that corruption is placing on the cost of doing business in South Africa. The insurance industry is an example. The South African Insurance Association reveals that insurance fraud costs the short-term insurance industry an estimated R4 billion a year, while organisations lose an estimated 5% of their annual revenues to fraud.

The insurance industry is not alone in this. The prevalence of healthcare fraud involving collusion between medical aid members and healthcare providers is also increasing. Healthcare fraud is one of the leading crimes in South Africa in terms of monetary value, with medical aids losing between R9 billion and R19 billion each year due to fraud, abuse and waste.

The real effect of corruption, however, is not limited to rand amounts. The far-reaching and more long-term costs of corruption are more than the numbers presented and threaten our progress as a nation in a number of ways. Some of these are:

  • The money lost could have been used building productive capacity that would increase growth rates on a compound basis.
  • It severely reduces tax revenue.
  • It hampers the state’s ability to invest in human capital, education and health, and infrastructure.
  • It negatively impacts our national balance sheet due to the effect it has on:
    • The rate at which foreign direct investment flows into South Africa
    • The rate at which the state and all state institutions can borrow internationally
    • The rate at which South African citizens are likely to invest in South Africa
  • All of this severely reduces social harmony in the country.

AT WHAT POINT SHOULD CORRUPTION BE TREATED WITH THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF PRIORITY?

Rather than being disheartened by the increasingly frequent incidents of corruption being reported, South Africans now have the opportunity to take a stand and become part of a nationwide solution.

This starts by making a deliberate decision to act with integrity and to hold those who do not do so to account. Like those already playing an ethical leadership role in government, business and civic organisations, we as individuals and as a professional body should be willing to do our part in this quest for ethical and responsible leadership. It is our responsibility to uphold the constitution regardless of whether we encounter corruption in the form of a R50 bribe to a traffic official or billions of rand in a swindled business deal.

IT IS TIME FOR ALL OF US TO TAKE A STAND AGAINST CORRUPTION

It was with this in mind that just over a year ago, the Nation Building department of SAICA began to conceptualise a national campaign that sought to give citizens a platform to help craft viable solutions to NDP-hampering problems like corruption. After working in collaboration with several key stakeholders, this planning has culminated in an active citizenry initiative called Unite 4 Mzansi.

Using the power of technology, Unite 4 Mzansi plans to enlist the support of millions of South Africans through a campaign it kicked off in the media in December 2016. For this launch, the initiative calls on South Africans to download the Unite 4 Mzansi app to indicate their commitment to the cause and their willingness to participate in its first summit (anti-corruption) research.

Over the months that follow, participants who have downloaded the app will be sent a series of snap surveys to complete in order to give Unite 4 Mzansi accurate data on South Africa’s views on corruption and on the actual incidences of corruption that are occurring. This is to ensure that national conversation and work on this issue becomes centred on facts and statistics rather than conjecture or a few select voices.

This research will be thoroughly assessed by eminent thought leaders at an anti-corruption summit which will be held at Constitution Hill in the first half of 2017. It will also be used to chart a solutions-driven way forward, focusing on mechanisms to reduce the level of corruption in the country.

As a member of a profession rated No 1 in the world by the World Economic Forum for auditing and reporting, SAICA is urging all its members and the South African public to join Unite 4 Mzansi and help tackle the challenges facing our national development and sustainable economic growth.

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