CORRUPTION WATCHDOG: Gavin Woods, former IFP MP. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
The 13th Biennial International Winelands conference was uncorked today at Stellenbosch University’s School of Public Leadership. The focus will be on corruption in society.
It is hosted in collaboration with the Anticorruption Centre for Education and Research (Accerus) and the Zijlstra Centre for Public Control and Governance at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam – the only international conference in South Africa that puts the spotlight on challenges in the public sector.
This year’s theme is Integrity and Governance: What is wrong? What is right? What is next?
Director of Stellenbosch University’s Accerus, Gavin Woods, yesterday said: “The biggest problem lies in that there is no clear and consistent understanding of corruption in society.
“Everyone, including the government, has their own views and opinions,” he said. This lack of understanding helps create an environment in the public sector where corruption thrives.
“Global research, including that done by Accerus, has shown conclusively that weak leadership and weak structures are conducive to corrupt practices,” Woods said.
“The problem of weak leaders in the public sector is widespread and many managers simply do not have the experience or skills needed to run a public organisation. “Research has further shown that corruption is multi-causal.
“Capitalism and the desire to acquire wealth is but one of the reasons. It has also been shown that value systems in countries in transition become fluid and confused,” he said.
Woods cited China, Russia and India as examples, showing how corruption increased in direct relation to great economic and or political change.
“Corruption in the public sector undermines citizens’ confidence in all matters related to public service delivery,” he said.
“When a public-service entity is known for corrupt practices, it leads to a feeling of disempowerment among the population and can severely undermine the democratic processes.
“There is a definite need to implement systems inside public organisations that will make corrupt practices too high risk to even contemplate,” he said.
“By raising the risk potential for the would-be perpetrators, we can begin to eliminate opportunities for corruption.
“As simple as it sounds, before we can start implementing preventative measures, we need a more comprehensive and coherent understanding of corruption and its causes.”
The conference is considered as being the eminent public leadership and governance forum of its kind in South Africa. It is sponsored by professional services firm Deloitte, which has recently signed a partnership agreement to work alongside Accerus to develop and promote working solutions to combat corruption.
Deloitte director and anti-corruption leader Marius Alberts said: “The conference brings together some of the world’s greatest minds focused on anti-corruption initiatives and programmes”.
“Forums like this are invaluable to the work Deloitte does in the sector and enables us to pass the benefits of the innovations and lessons learned directly on to our clients,” he said.
Speakers include Cobus de Swardt, MD of the global corruption fighting organisation, Transparency International; John Bennington, professor in public management, management and policy; Erwin Schwella, professor in public leadership, and director of the Institute for Public Management (Flanders), Geert Bouckaert.
Topics include: Putting the “good” back into governance while corruption has taken a turn for the worse in the South African public sector; Effective leadership: the solution to end corruption in the South African public sector; Ethics of accountability in the public sector; The best of times, the worst of Times: Public corruption in US municipalities, among other subjects.