The way forward for whistle-blowing in South Africa.

Corruption and the interference of crime fighting bodies are among the many serious challenges that South Africa faces. John Robbie spoke to the Deputy Public Protector, Advocate Kevin Malunga, about the launch of the Anti-Intimidation and Ethical Practices Forum (AEPF).

The AEPF has connected several anti-corruption agencies with the aim of advancing whistle-blowing in the country. The forum consists of professional bodies such as the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFESA), the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), the Institute of Internal Auditors South Africa (IIA SA) and the Ethics Institute of South Africa. It is these entities that report to the office of the Public Protector.

The idea is to have the forum to educate members about corruption, advise them on how to reveal corruption and what to do when whistle-blowers are being intimidated.

Dr. Claudel Von Eck, Chair of the AEPF, who spoke to Stephen Grootes on the Midday Report

As a keynote speaker, The Deputy Public Protector called for the consideration of incentives or bounties to encourage whistle-blowing by the public and professional community. Malunga advised that this kind of practice was “not new to the law”, citing examples from U.S legislation.

In terms of the current framework, there is not much to encourage people to blow the whistle. In fact, there are so many disincentives. Whistle-blowers don’t feel safe, they face harassment, discrimination, dismissal - risks to their lives, some of them have even been killed in South Africa.

Deputy Public Protector, Adv. Malunga

Malunga referred to previous cases of whistle blowing, well known to the public, which had endangered people’s lives. Predominant cases in South Africa have included:

  • Jimmy Mohlala, speaker of the Mbombela Municipality in Nelspruit, who was allegedly assassinated for blowing the whistle on a colleague who was accused of involvement in corrupt 2010 World Cup construction tenders.
  • Moss Phakoe, a councillor in the Rustenburg local municipality, who paid with his life for allegedly exposing fraud in North West’s drought-relief projects.
  • Lawrence Moepi, a forensic director for an auditing firm, who was reportedly shot dead in a suspected hit after investigating major cases involving suspected corruption.

In the course of doing your job, you may find some very uncomfortable truths that make you quite vulnerable.

Deputy Public Protector, Adv. Malunga

Some that have attempted to blow the whistle against corruption, find that the one’s in charge of dealing with the offences and procedures are often the perpetrators of the crimes.

That’s the reason why part of Public Protector and other integrity bodies exist; to actually ensure that we fight this. It’s a Constitutional value in South Africa to have proper and fair procurement. So when people identify things that are irregular, they have to be protected. Hence the need for a forum like this.

Deputy Public Protector, Adv. Malunga

Dr. Von Eck offered a guide on the stages of whistle-blowing procedures for professional bodies:

  • Ensure that all the internal channels have been exhausted.
  • Make contact with the Institute of one's professional body, known as the 1st Tier.
  • Consult with the umbrella body (AEPF), which would evaluate the given case.
  • Referral to 2cnd Tier regulators, such as the Puplic Protector and the Auditor General.

Dr. Von Eck told Stephen Grootes that there are two main reasons why potential whistle-blowers do not come forward: fear and the feeling that there will be no consequences for the crimes committed.

We do need to see a strengthening at the second tier - that action is actually taken and that there are visible consequences.

Dr. Claudel Von Eck, Chair of the AEPF

Listen to Adv. Malunga’s interview with John Robbie:

Listen to Dr. Von Eck's interview with Stephen Grootes:

Find more on the Adv. Malunga’s address here.

John Robbie hosts the breakfast show on 702, every weekday from 06:00 to 09:00.

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