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Structural reforms required to stem tide of state capture - research institute

NEWS24 / 07 JUNE 2019 - 11.14 / JAN GERBER

Simply having more ethical leaders and citizens mobilised around accountability will not stem the tide of state capture on its own, structural reforms in the state are also needed, says the Public Affairs Research Institute.

The institute, affiliated to the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), has researched state capture for the past eight years.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Siyabulela Duda, GCIS)

It intends to release three position papers in August, which will argue for regulatory and administrative reforms to "realise a rigorous reduction in corruption and in the influence of patronage in South African politics".

"These reforms aim to improve political accountability, efficiency, and the developmental effectiveness of South Africa's public administration," the institute said in a statement.

It referenced President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address in February, when he said "our greatest efforts to end poverty, unemployment and inequality will achieve little unless we tackle state capture and corruption in all its manifestations and in all areas of public life" and committed itself to work with society as well as to strengthen the state's ability to promote its democratic mandate and address the needs of the people.

"These are significant commitments. They are indicative of a widely evidenced momentum in the government, and in broader society, in favour of reversing the erosion of state institutions and reaffirming the values and aspirations of the post-apartheid project," the statement read.

"It has been suggested that in order to address the phenomenon of 'state capture', to stabilise and improve our governmental institutions, the country simply needs more ethical leaders and a citizenry mobilised around accountability.

"This idea places an unwise degree of faith in the morality of future political leaders and citizens. The current challenge is more structural in nature and therefore crucial reforms in the South African state are required.

"These reforms would allow South Africa to insulate its public administration from illicit political interference at the same time that it progressively opens channels of upward mobility and tackles poverty and inequality."

The institute, in collaboration with organisations working in their respective fields, focuses on three topics: state procurement, public service recruitment and appointments in criminal justice institutions.

With regards to state procurement, the institute proposes a focus on loosening the rules to facilitate good purchasing practice and black economic empowerment but strengthening mechanisms of contract management.

The proposals for public service recruitment focus on ensuring that the executive retains control over the policy direction of the government, but that recruitment below a certain level in the public service, and in local government, is depoliticised.

The institute also has proposals for increasing the independence of criminal justice institutions through changes in the selection and removal processes in the National Director of Public Prosecutions, the national commissioner of SAPS, the head of the Directorate of Priority Crimes, and of IPID.



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