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Public Works aims to curtail corruption

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The Fraud Awareness and Investigations (FAI) Unit held Fraud Awareness Presentations for all Department of Public Works (DPW) Head office units last month (25 June to 29 June).

The presentations covered some key areas: definition of fraud and corruption; the effect of fraud and corruption within DPW and the economy as a whole; educating staff about DPW’s stance against fraud and corruption; clarifying the DPW integrated anti-corruption strategy; and reporting mechanisms available to DPW employees.

FAI is a Directorate within the Chief Directorate Internal Audit and Investigation Services. It functionally reports to the Audit and Risk Management Committee of the Department and administratively to the Director-General (DG).

The role of the FAI directorate is: analysing and monitoring fraud and corruption risks as part of risk assessment; investigating allegations of fraud and corruption; recommending and supporting disciplinary action against employees (fraud and corruption); referring allegations of fraud and corruption to relevant law enforcement agencies; keeping a register of all allegations reported; creating awareness and promoting a culture of anti-fraud and corruption within DPW.

The Fraud Awareness presentations form part of the FAI’s Fraud Prevention Strategy where the unit visits all DPW regions on a yearly basis to conduct workshops and presentations on fraud awareness. The unit also rolls out campaigns and programmes such as the Zero Tolerance campaign which was launched in 2007 at a departmental Fraud Conference at Birchwood to raise awareness, enlighten, educate and communicate to staff members on matters around fraud and corruption within the department.

The workshops have so far been conducted in all regions and head office was the last stop for the past financial year.

The FAI presentation defines fraud and corruption as follows:

* Fraud: ” the unlawful and intentional making of a misrepresentation which causes actual or potential prejudice to another; the use of this term is in its widest possible meaning and includes all aspects of economic crime and acts of dishonesty. In other words fraud can be described as any conduct or behaviour of which dishonesty representation and or appropriation forms an element.

* Corruption: any conduct or behaviour in relation to persons entrusted with responsibilities in the public office that violates their duties as public officials and is aimed at obtaining undue gratification of any kind for themselves or for others.”
According to the Sunday Times, South Africa’s civil servants have scored more than half-a-billion rand in government tenders, which were irregularly awarded to their spouses and relatives.

Yet irregular tenders are not the only form of fraud and corruption. There are various acts that make-up fraud and corruption and the following were highlighted as being the most common within the department, including: bribery; collusion; fronting; cover quoting; unfair preferential treatment of suppliers; misrepresentation by contractors; conflict of interest; manipulation; falsification of records or supporting documentation; unfair distribution of incentives, procurement, fraud etc.

According to the FIA unit, circumstances or fraud motivators include greed, boredom, financial problems including debt and living beyond our means, low loyalty, revenge and a need to feed an addiction such as gambling, drugs and/or drinking. During the presentation it was noted that not everyone who finds themselves faced with the above circumstances is corrupt, but such individuals are more susceptible to committing fraud.

“Yet as much as individuals may be susceptible to committing fraud, the department as well may create loopholes that make itself an easy target for fraudsters to prey on. In such cases the department would not have followed correct procedures in the appointments of employees resulting in a lack of competent personnel who are not sufficiently qualified for the tasks they are given, lack of proper administering of documents and records, operating on a crisis mode, and a lack of delegation of authority, among others,” says Alice Phophi, assistant director: investigations at the FAI.

DPW employees are encouraged to report fraud and corruption.