Money, political power and corruption. It is a triangle that is haunting South Africa, which, despite being placed in the top half of the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2019, is still battling allegations of state capture.
South Africa has improved marginally from a score of 43 in 2018 to 44, which still places it squarely among countries deemed to have a serious corruption problem and that are not doing enough in their anti-corruption efforts.
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2019, released today by the global coalition against corruption Transparency International, reveals that more than two-thirds of the 180 countries on the index score less than 50, with an average score of just 43.
The index, considered to be the leading global indicator of public sector corruption, ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of corruption in the public sector according to experts and businesspeople.
It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
This year’s report highlights the importance of the relationship between money, political power and corruption.
Analysis shows how corruption is more pervasive in countries where big money can flow freely into electoral campaigns.
Those better performing countries on the CPI tend to have a stronger enforcement of campaign finance regulations.
Conversely, those countries with lower scores either lack such regulating mechanisms or, where they do exist, are not sufficiently enforced.
Parliament passed South Africa’s Political Party Funding Act in January last year, but the president has yet to bring the act into operation.
Unless there is clear political will to enforce key measures and legislation regulating political party funding, as well as to hold party members accountable, the perception remains that the country is not doing enough.
David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, commented: “The failure after a year to bring the Political Party Funding Act into operation does little to inspire confidence in the strength of government’s will to tackle corruption. In addition, the South African public has made it clear that, until there is visible progress in prosecuting those responsible for corruption and until there is visible improvement in the ability of state-owned enterprises to deliver their vital services, government’s promises to combat corruption will not be trusted.”
As in previous years, sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest-scoring region on the CPI, with an average of 32, indicating concerning levels of corruption and inaction in tackling it.
In sub-Saharan Africa, perceptions indicate that money is frequently used to win elections, buy influence, consolidate power and further personal interests.
The African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption has provisions to prevent corruption and encourage transparency, but, in many countries, these are clearly not being sufficiently implemented, if at all.
South Africa is 70th out of the 180 countries measured, and is surpassed by eight other sub-Saharan African countries.
The report has some useful recommendations for countries that need to reduce corruption and restore trust in political leaders and those in public office.
In addition to closer regulation of political party funding, the report recommends measures to reduce possibilities for special interest involvement in disbursement of budgets and public services; to eliminate conflicts of interest; to regulate political lobbying and sanction misinformation campaigns; and to strengthen protection of whistle-blowers, journalists and activists.
Lewis added: “The toxic influence of money in politics would also be exposed and constrained were we to commence with promised lifestyle audits of politicians and public officials, to introduce more stringent application of regulations governing asset and income declarations, and to require companies to identify their beneficial owners.”