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New approach to fight corruption gets results

From The Union Buildings

The fight against corruption requires both firm political will and independent, capable crime-fighting institutions.

In my first State of the Nation Address, in 2018, I made a commitment to turn the tide against corruption in our public institutions and fight fraud and collusion in the private sector with the same intensity and purpose.

Since then, we have been working hard to strengthen and support our law enforcement and related agencies. We set up the Investigating Directorate in the National Prosecuting Authority to deal with serious corruption and the Special Tribunal to enable the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to more easily recover stolen funds. We have also provided support and resources to other critical crime-fighting bodies like the Asset Forfeiture Unit, Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit and Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as the Hawks.

These efforts are producing results.

Through collaboration with key entities in the criminal justice system, the Investigating Directorate has enrolled over 20 corruption cases in the last financial year and 65 accused have been charged. These include several ‘state capture’ and other serious corruption cases.

In the past financial year, the Asset Forfeiture Unit obtained freezing orders to the value of R5.4 billion relating to corruption offences, with R70 million paid into the Criminal Assets Recovery Fund.

Over the past eight years, the SIU has recovered funds and assets to the value of R2.6 billion and set aside contracts to the value of R18 billion. A total of 119 cases worth more than R13 billion have been enrolled by the SIU at the Special Tribunal.

Corruption is an extremely complex crime to prosecute.

Perpetrators go to extraordinary lengths to cover their tracks. They set up shelf companies to hide dodgy transactions, rapidly moving monies between multiple accounts, misrepresenting income to the tax authorities, and, in the case of government employees, using friends and relatives to apply for tenders to mask their involvement.

This means that the response of the authorities has to be just as sophisticated. 

In 2020, we established a multidisciplinary Fusion Centre as an operational hub to address priority financial crimes, including corruption. The centre brings together the investigative capabilities of government’s crime prevention and security structures and those of the Financial Intelligence Centre, which develops intelligence for law enforcement agencies to use in their investigations.

Two years since the Fusion Centre was established, its multidisciplinary approach to ‘follow the money’ has yielded significant results.

In the last financial year, the work of the Fusion Centre supported 276 fraud and corruption investigations. Approximately R659 million was restored to the State through preservation and recovery of the proceeds of crime. Approximately R613 million in suspected criminal proceeds were frozen.

The Fusion Centre was initially set up to investigate corruption around COVID-related procurement. Its mandate is now being expanded to include money-laundering, fraud, maladministration, terrorist financing and other serious financial crimes.

The Hawks recently outlined some of the progress that has been made by the Anti-Corruption Task Team, of which the Fusion Centre forms part. Between the 2019 and 2022 financial years, 554 suspects were arrested for corruption, of which 142 were convicted.

Another vital financial intelligence tool is the lifestyle audits conducted by the South African Revenue Service (SARS). Last year, SARS completed 25 lifestyle audits to the value of over R450 million to resolve discrepancies between declared income and an individual’s lifestyle.

It is clear that the measures we have taken as this administration to restore the capacity, capability and credibility of the institutions involved in the fight against corruption are having a demonstrable impact.

The synchronised work of all the law enforcement agencies is hitting criminals where it hurts most: in their pockets. Public funds that were looted and diverted are being recovered and those responsible for these acts are being prosecuted by our courts.

To further strengthen our efforts to turn the tide against corruption, I am announcing appointments to the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council.

The Council will bring together stakeholders from across society to oversee the implementation of government’s anti-corruption strategy. The new body will advise government on the critical preventative measures, institutional capabilities and resources needed to prevent a recurrence of state capture and to stamp out fraud and corruption in South Africa.

Our ultimate aim is to build strong and resilient institutions that can end corruption and withstand any future attempts at state capture.

As we continue to build on these successes, we are confident that even if it takes time, those who stole and looted resources meant for the people will face the consequences of their actions.