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Transitioning to a Corruption-Intolerant Culture Means Private Sector Must Stop Finger Pointing

Peter's interview with Power FMSouth Africa’s challenges have necessitated more urgency around addressing unemployment, poverty and inequality, and right alongside, one sees justification for the current impetus on ‘radical socio-economic transformation’. Peter Goss, Head of Forensics and Public Sector Leader at SizweNtsalubaGobodo, says that achieving these national priorities will rely on government, private sector, business and civil society presenting a united front in combatting corruption.

"To ensure success in achieving these national priorities it is imperative that corruption also feature as a top priority at all levels within all sectors in 2015. Here however private sector, business and civil society cannot sit around waiting looking for public sector to provide answers.

"Rather what is required is a concerted effort by all societal sectors in re-looking what can be improved in order to effectively manage the risks of corruption and wastage. In other words individual organisations need to take on the responsibility of actively implementing appropriate anti-corruption measures if we hope to make any meaningful in-roads into combatting corruption at national level,” he comments.

For Goss, while a sound legislative framework supported by enforcement is a government or public sector imperative, preventative vigilance and multi-sectoral citizen participation which he believes are critical and in fact part and part and parcel of effectively combatting corruption, are essentially a private sector, business and civil society responsibility.

"Preventative vigilance refers to each individual organisation, whether it be a global corporation, SME, NGO, or community organisation, developing systems or controls to pro-actively prevent people within their organisations becoming involved in corrupt activities.

"Multi-sectoral citizen participation on the other hand refers to each and every citizen of this country becoming an anti-corruption activist. Here organisations and communities need to create awareness around what corruption is, while at the same time encourage a whistle blowing mentality. Considering that internationally approximately 50 percent of all corrupt activity is reported via tip-offs, promoting a culture where reporting corruption is not only promoted but in fact is the norm will play an important role in the fight against corruption,” he explains.

Goss believes an important part of adopting an activist stance is through publically shaming the offender. "It is thus essential that the findings of corruption investigations be made publically known together with ensuring the offenders are blacklisted if necessary.”

"If you look back at the corrupt activity that was highlighted by the media in the construction, telecoms and infrastructure sectors in 2014, the actual initiation of prosecutions of the private businesses involved in these incidents has been few to none. This unfortunately sends out the message that the responsibility for this corruption rests with government alone. What seems to be forgotten is that public servants cannot be corrupt on their own,” he stresses.

For Goss transitioning to a corruption-intolerant culture means moving past finger pointing at the public sector. Here he believes a possible solution lies in promoting an anti-corruption culture within organisations backed by a mutual peer pressure system, something which he says has in fact seen success in the past.

"South Africa in the 1990’s was a period marked by a proliferation of cash-in-transit heists. Here a resolution was brought about through the major banks partnering to lobby the SAPS. It is this lobbyist movement that in fact saw the establishment of Business Against Crime which over time grew to be effective in combatting commercial crime in general.

"In other words it was the private sector that took the lead against specific crimes because it affected them directly. And while this private sector participation eventually escalated into the establishment of the National Anti-corruption Forum in the early 2000s, business has fallen short in that instead of participating as an active player it has instead moved to participating as re-active critic in the fight against corruption,” he comments.

Going forward together with private sector and business taking a lead, Goss says similarly communities must step-up and take-on the role of becoming advocates for anti-corruption. "Each community needs to take the lead in the fight against corruption instead of waiting for government alone to take on this role. As a country we need to change our mind-set in this regard and accept that corruption is our joint responsibility,” he concludes.