Thursday’s long awaited and much debated announcement in parliament of the presidential economic recovery plan refers. 

Restoring business confidence and promoting public trust in the capability of strong institutions of state (both confidence and trust are currently at a low ebb) are fundamental to the success of the presidential plan. It is in the realms of business and public participation that sustainable economic development best occurs. The state is not a profit centre; its role is to enable.

It is accordingly to be hoped, in relation to building confidence and trust, that the president’s announcement will include the cabinet’s reaction to the resolution of the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC, made early in August, which called on the government to establish a single, stand-alone, permanent and independent agency to “deal with” corruption.

While recent arrests of the corrupt are encouraging, they are — in the words of National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shamila Batohi — but a “pinpoint on an iceberg”. She has conceded that the under-resourced NPA has insufficient skills, capacity or capability to “deal with” the scourge of grand corruption.

Impunity is strangling the life out of the SA economy by undermining the necessary confidence and trust, and saboteurs deployed during the state-capture years still lurk in the ranks of the NPA, serving their discredited political masters instead of the public interest.

If the cabinet does nothing urgent and dramatic about countering corruption, the economic recovery plan is bound to struggle to succeed. We have a crying need to adopt the type of public procurement reform measures that have been put in place in Ukraine. Modernising, digitalising and sanitising current procurement practices in SA will serve to make real the promise of the constitution that public money spent on procuring goods and services for the state must be done “in accordance with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective”. 

On “dealing with” corruption, the best-practice solution for SA is to create a Chapter Nine institution to prevent, combat, investigate and prosecute grand corruption. Doing so will tick all the boxes created in the August resolution of the NEC of the ANC and will enable proper compliance with the criteria legally laid down in the Glenister litigation. Without the political will to deal with corruption, economic recovery is illusory. Looting, as seen in recent personal protective equipment tenders, will continue and the loot will remain unrecovered.

Paul Hoffman, Accountability Now

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