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New app allows the public to report SAPS corruption

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Advocacy group Corruption Watch (CW) has launched an interactive open data tool, Veza, which allows citizens to rate police stations and report incidents of corruption within the South African Police Service (SAPS).

The new Web-based tool was introduced by the non-governmental organisation in response to the many whistle-blower complaints it has received from citizens on police corruption. It was also inspired by its engagements with communities that experienced police violence and abuse, it says.

CW is a public platform that encourages and enables local citizens to report their knowledge and experience of corruption.

Veza, a colloquial term for ‘reveal’ or ‘expose’, is the first tool of its kind in SA, which is aimed at improving transparency in policing in the country, by giving the public the power to hold the SAPS accountable, notes CW.

The stand-out advantage of the tool is its ability to equip a wide range of people, from researchers, journalists, activists and communities, to the public at large, with the knowledge and insight to demand better and more accountable policing.

Veza also features interactive maps of police corruption trends and hotspots, information relating to the public’s rights when encountering the police in various situations, and data on all 1 150 police stations across the country, which includes locations, resources, budget and personnel.

It provides all this information at national, provincial and district level.

In addition to reporting incidents of corruption and police misconduct within the SAPS branches, it enables users to compare resources of up to four stations, rate police stations, and commend honest and ethical police officers.

“Since Corruption Watch’s inception in 2012, innovation has always been central to our approach in addressing systemic and pervasive corruption in South Africa,” says Kavisha Pillay, head of stakeholder relations and campaigns at Corruption Watch.

“The launch of the Veza tool signifies a new era for Corruption Watch, as we explore how transparency, big data and accessible technology can be used to combat corruption and advance broader social justice issues.”

The introduction of the Veza tool was made possible by CW’s selection at the end of 2018 as one of four winners of the Google Impact Challenge, which encourages local innovators to solve a social problem using technology.

The support from the grant and other donors enabled the CW team to develop an idea to address the specific problem of police misconduct and abuse of power.

The data used to populate the Veza tool was obtained from the SAPS through the submission of a number of applications under the Promotion of Access to Information Act, notes Pillay.

The collection and verification of data is an ongoing process, and the team is continually working to address the current gaps in information from specific provinces, districts and individual police stations by applying pressure to the necessary bodies to disclose the relevant information, which is in the public interest.

The new tool also provides an opportunity for the SAPS and other government structures to embrace the concept of open data and public access to information – this will go a long way to restoring public confidence in the vital role they play in the country.

CW notes that members of the police service can themselves benefit from the use of the geo-location feature that highlights hotspots of corruption, and gain valuable insight into the allocation and use of resources of their own police stations.

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