JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa is fighting a losing battle against corruption which sucked up nearly 1 billion rand ($111 million) in taxpayers' money last year — nearly three times the amount lost in 2010, according to a new report called The Real State of the Nation.
"Corruption is rampant," the author of the report, financial forensics expert Peter Allwright, said Friday. "It's out of control ... and the dedicated units that have been created to fight financial misconduct are in essence fighting a losing battle."
Allwright told The Associated Press that while 88 percent of people tried for financial misconduct are found guilty, only 19 percent are dismissed. Forty-three percent get final written warnings.
"Essentially you have a one-in-five chance of being dismissed and the rest remain in the public service and continue with financial misconduct because there are no real consequences," said Allwright, an attorney with law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs.
Others are able "to get off scot-free" by resigning and getting another government job where they can continue to steal, he said. That was because an insufficient investigative capacity in the public service means nearly two-thirds of cases take more than 90 days to investigate. "You can give 30 days' notice and leave, and the public service office then often abandons the investigation," Allwright said.
Only 13 percent of the money lost to corruption is recovered, he said.
South Africa lost 930 million rand ($103 million) to financial misconduct by workers in national and provincial governments in the fiscal year 2011-2012, up from 346 million rand ($38.5 million) in 2009-2010, the report says. South Africa's national budget this year is R1.5 trillion ($167 billion).
The amount missing from public coffers is probably much higher because corruption cases are underreported and the figures do not include local governments, Allwright said. Despite government promises to fight corruption and mismanagement, little has changed since a government report on local governments in 2009 warned that in some cases "accountable government and the rule of law had collapsed or were collapsing" because of corruption, profiteering and mismanagement.
The government report found corruption was the biggest factor in failures to provide basic services, a nagging problem that frequently triggers violent across a country that has Africa's largest economy but millions living in shacks without running water or electricity.
Allwright's report is based on figures from parliamentary committee reports and the Public Service Commission, which has conceded that cases of corruption are probably underreported.