While corruption is a cancerous problem in every sphere of our society, it appears to be more prevalent in the South African school system, according to data collected by Corruption Watch.

The non-profit organisation released its fifth annual report today, a day after its fifth birthday, revealing insights from data collected from 15 000 whistle-blowers from across the country who have approached it during the last half a decade.

In 2016 alone, there were 4 391 corruption reports submitted to the organisation, averaging 11 per day. In comparison, 2 382 reports were received in 2015 and 2 714 in 2014.

Among the top five reports received last year, 16% were related to corruption in schools, 7% to road traffic, 6% to licensing, 6% to immigration and 5% to housing.

The majority of reports came from Gauteng at 51%, but that figure can largely be attributed to several factors:

  • It’s the most populated province in the country
  • It’s home to South Africa’s administrative and economic capitals
  • It’s where Corruption Watch does most of its work and therefore has developed constructive relationships with most government institutions.

Abuse of power was the most reported form of corruption at 29%, followed by bribery at 24%, procurement at 17%, “other” forms at 16% and employment at 14%.

Corruption in schools

A total of 1 431 reports of corruption at schools were received in 2016. “These reports from the public indicate that in most cases, school principals are the primary culprits involved in misusing school funds and resources,” Corruption Watch said.

The majority of the reports (55%) were related to dealings by school principals, followed by 14% related to principals working with others (e.g parents, teachers) and 10% related to school governing body members.

Theft of funds (29%), financial mismanagement (28%) and employment corruption (26%) were the top three biggest forms of corruption reported.

According to the organisation, issues in schools have their roots in a number of dysfunctions, including school procurement policies, provincial departments of education which don’t have adequate systems in place to monitor the misuse of funds and the lack of parental involvement in school activities, among other things.

In 2013, Corruption Watch launched a campaign targeted at schools to raise awareness about the reality of the scourge of corruption.

It also regularly engages youth from across the country in its Leaders of Today campaign to help foster the spirit of an incorruptible generation that will be the leaders of the present and future.

“The whistle-blowing reports that we receive are the source of our legitimacy, as they enable us to speak with the voice of the public. They provide us with the ability to identify patterns and hotspots of corruption, to target campaigns, to investigate and to litigate. They constitute the evidence that we present to those in authority,” said David Lewis, Executive Director of Corruption Watch.

In the current year, he added, the organisation’s primary objective is to significantly raise the volume of reports that it receives.

You can read the full report on Corruption Watch’s website.