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No less than 31 millionaires are junior government officials

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At least 31 government junior officials are alleged to be millionaires, while government suppliers cry foul that they have been milked dry by officials and pay from head to toe to people who are not even part of the transaction.


This was revealed by Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) Menzi Tsela when addressing members of the Federation of the Swazi Business Community (FESBC) during its Hhohho region meeting held last Thursday at the Mountain Inn Hotel in Mbabane.
He said this startling revelation was contained in the review of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) report 2017, titled, ‘Effectiveness of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Southern Africa.’
Tsela said it was a pity that government suppliers were no longer paying the now known illegal 10 per cent commission to government officials, but were now paying from head to toe to people who were not even part of the transaction.
“Sadly, this is invisible tax that businesses cannot even account for and it continues to stifle business development,” he said.
As a result, Tsela said one of the reasons most government suppliers were not making enough profits was due to invisible tax burdens from government officials. 
He warned the federation’s members to desist from illicit payments and work hand in hand with the corruption watchdog to curb the misconduct.
He urged FESBC to come up with a code of conduct for its membership and to further engage with the public sector.
Corruption
“The business community has to take a lead to create a wall against corruption,” he said.
Sadly, he said the country’s justice system was still not that responsive to corruption.
“Some cases still drag for a long time such that some suspects have even died before trial,” he said.
The report that Tsela was referring to further states that corruption is prevalent within the bureaucracy as companies and private entities pay public officials to sidestep regulations.
It singles out the police, the ministry of finance, the ministry of commerce, industry and trade, as well as the department of customs and excise, which have long been implicated in corrupt practices.
Worth noting, yesterday, the Swazi News reported how over 40 civil servants were on Friday grilled by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on how they spent over E16million meant for the Community Poverty Reduction Fund (CPRF).
Payments
Shockingly, these are the very same people who had been given the responsibility to manage the fund established by His Majesty King Mswati II in 2010 to help reduce poverty.
The OSISA report explains that corruption is said to be prevalent in the government procurement and tendering processes and reference is made to the case of Polycarp Dlamini, the former general transport manager of the Central Transport Administration (CTA), who was convicted of defrauding the government after he admitted to authorising payments worth up to E12 million to a private company for services that were never rendered.
“On another level, the PAC was informed that E1.6 million was paid to service providers for the maintenance of a machine that was neither broken nor in use at the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS),” states the report.
It further details how the PAC was informed that the officer who authorised the bogus job cards had since been promoted and transferred to another government department and this type of behaviour is common, albeit covert and therefore difficult to monitor, as goods and services are undersupplied or rerouted for personal use.
Once again, reference is made to a statement by the former Minister of Finance, Majozi Sithole where he said that, ‘the “twin evils of bribery and corruption have become the order of the day in the country and the economy is dying gradually because of this practice, as well as the citizens are placed under a heavy yoke.”
The minister estimated that corruption was costing the Swazi economy approximately E40 million a month and poor people who suffer as a result of corruption took the minister’s statement as confirmation of the extent to which the country was being driven to bankruptcy through corrupt activities.
The corrupt public officials thought the minister was exaggerating the extent of corruption while academics were sceptical of the statement as he did not provide a basis for his assertion.
The minister’s statement was significant in so far as it highlighted the fact that the economy of the country was being undermined by corrupt activities.
However, the current Minister of Finance Martin Dlamini says government has put in place measures to fight corruption, yet it has made little progress in prosecuting and punishing corrupt people, according to the report.
System
In addition, in the past, ministers have been found by a Parliamentary Select Committee to have acted in a manner that is tantamount to theft of state property and the ministers had allocated to themselves and subsequently ‘bought’ land belonging to the state at ridiculously low prices without competing with other would-be buyers.
“The matter was never pursued by the ACC and it eventually died down,” reads the report by OSISA. Lastly, they cite the case of judge  Mpendulo Simelane who is said to have stated that he had been approached by the former Minister of Justice, Sibusiso Shongwe who told him that judges could and should make money from cases over which they presided.
Shongwe is said to have asked the judge to preside in a case of wealthy business people who were suing the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) for goods they had imported and further told the judge that the business people were willing to pay approximately E2 million for help in winning the case.
The former minister went on to suggest that Simelane should preside in the case and explained how the E2 million would be shared between the parties.
Simelane and Shongwe were subsequently arrested by the ACC and charged with corruption, but charges were subsequently dropped against Simelane whilst he remains on suspension with Shongwe presently out on bail.
“This case illustrates how the Swazi justice system was abused to settle political scores and make it complicit to actions of corrupt public officials,” concludes the report.

ACC advised to actively market itself

 

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has been advised to actively market itself to address the perception that it makes arrests, only to embarrass people and settle political scores.
The piece of advice has been offered by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) in their 2017 report which sought to find out on the, ‘Effectiveness of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Southern Africa.’
This is contained in the recommendations made for Swaziland where the reputable organisation shared the importance of the ACC doing this which they further pointed out that it can be done by means of making sure that their website is updated and made user-friendly, as well as that their offices are decentralised.
Purpose
The organisation further advised that the ACC must make its reports public and accessible, without charging a fee, and should also be more visible for educational purposes, not only when it carried out arrests.
“A properly capacitated ACC is essential to ensure that it can effectively fulfil its mandate. The ACC should be provided with sufficient and consistent funding to enhance its effective functioning,” reads the report.
Further, according to OSISA, the ACC should be allowed to mobilise funding from external sources to support some of its programme initiatives and also build its institutional capacity to ensure that appropriately skilled persons are employed and that skills development is implemented throughout all its departments.
This can be done through strengthening collaboration with international organisations fighting corruption and that would also see the backlog of corruption cases being heard.
Defence
It adds that, “the vast backlog of corruption cases and financial crimes within the court system can be addressed through the establishment of a specialised commercial court, manned by dedicated personnel and judges.
This would help bring about quicker resolution to corruption related cases.”
In every national integrity system, the judiciary represents the last wall of defence against corruption and impunity in the society.
 However, where confidence in the judiciary is at an all- time low, as is currently the case in Swaziland, it creates a pernicious multiplier effect on the rest of society.
Law
This means that public confidence needs to be restored when corruption cases are heard by the ordinary courts and this can be done through laying down suitable rules and procedures for making judicial appointments and increasing the number of judges in order to expedite all the pending cases and deal with future workloads.
Also, the report calls for the domestication of provisions of international legal instruments. It states that the leadership of the country must publicly demonstrate commitment to regional and international conventions by incorporating these in Swaziland’s municipal law.
Anti-corruption laws and regulations should be enhanced and harmonised and the Whistleblowers Act and the Witness Protection Act should be enforced, also.

 

‘Media can be government watchdog in corruption fight’

 

According to the same report, the inadequacy of transparency  and accountability can be mitigated if government establishes a freedom of information act.
Through this act, the government could improve transparency and accountability ratings by allowing the media and other members of society to obtain information, as well as enable the media to act as a government watchdog by highlighting corruption within the public sector by means of objective evidence.
The constitution guarantees the freedom to receive and communicate ideas and information without interference as part of the right to freedom of expression and a freedom of information act would operationalise the provisions of the constitution.
Further, the most effective approach to dealing with corruption is for the state to effectively enforce the constitutional provisions for accountability of public officials and to guarantee participatory democracy.
This will encourage the participation of civil society in ensuring accountability and transparency of governance. Good governance is a basic requirement for development in Swaziland.

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