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Anti-corruption hotline attracts more whistle-blowers

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Government’s National Anti-Corruption Hotline (NACH) recorded an uptick in reports alleging corruption at government departments between April and June, compared to the same period last year.

This is according to the latest quarterly report compiled by the Public Service Commission (PSC) for the period 1 April to 30 June 2021.

Introduced in 2004, the anti-corruption hotline is managed by the PSC, which investigates and evaluates the organisation and administration of the public service.

For the period under review, the PSC says a total of 337 cases of alleged corruption had been lodged through the hotline.

This figure, according to the commission, indicates an increase of 104 reported cases compared to the previous year. During the same period last year, only 233 complaints were recorded.

“This may be due to increased awareness of legislation relating to the protection of whistle-blowers, such as the Protected Disclosures Act, thus instilling confidence in the process and outcomes of blowing the whistle.

“This may also be due to the fact that whistle-blowing is no longer viewed as a negative act, as it was under the previous dispensation, thus removing some of the stigma that is often associated with whistle-blowing.”

The reported cases related to issues such as procurement irregularities, corruption, fraud, bribery, as well as the South African Social Security Agency’s (SASSA’s) COVID-19 social relief grant.

It notes that 133 of the 337 complaints lodged through the hotline related to SASSA’s R350 social relief of distress grant.

“According to SASSA, all the cases referred to the institution were closed after conducting the process of appeal. In this respect, some cases were approved and others were rejected with valid reasons. Cases of appointment and procurement irregularities were investigated by the PSC.”

The PSC points out that the bulk of complaints (243) were related to national departments and public entities (including SASSA), with the rest related to provincial departments.

“The PSC noted from the feedback provided by departments on concluded investigations that a number of the complaints investigated were unsubstantiated. To this end, the PSC encourages members of the public and whistle-blowers to provide full, detailed information to enable investigators to make informed conclusions.

“All complaints, as long as there is substance in them, should be investigated, irrespective of how minor the corruption allegation.”

The organisation stressed that inefficient investigations by government departments are causing undue prejudice to whistle-blowers.

“The PSC is concerned that departments are taking an extended period of time in providing feedback, despite the fact that whistle-blowers are requesting feedback on progress made with investigations.

“Generally, many investigations are prolonged due to a variety of factors, like complexity and retrieval of supporting information. The efficiency with which the departments investigate allegations of corrupt activities reported to them contribute towards the effectiveness of the NACH.”

The NACH can be reached on 0800 701 701.

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