accountability

accountability

  • Kader Asmal Speaks on Ethics

    Former Minister of Education and Water Affairs and Forestry Kader Asmal, delivered the Helen Joseph Memorial Lecture on 28 October 2008 at the University of Johannesburg. His lecture was entitled ‘Law, morality and ethics in public life in South Africa’.

    His address came just days after former African National Congress (ANC) chairperson Mosiuoa Lekota wrote an open letter to the party’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, criticising the newly-elected leadership for forsaking values of the Freedom Charter.

    Asmal’s address echoed Lekota’s view by emphasising the need for South Africa to revisit its views on the role of ethics and morality in public life, as the country approaches what he calls “an unprecedented level of upheaval” in the political landscape which offers both threats and opportunities.

    He said one of reasons he resigned from his position in government was because he did not want to vote for the disbanding of the Scorpion. He criticised the decision to allow MPs who had been implicated in ‘Travelgate’ to vote on the legislation effectively disbanding the elite crime fighting unit.

    “Is it right to take action against the very body that could have completed the investigations against you?” he asked.

    Former Gauteng premier and volunteer-in-chief for the yet to be formally established breakaway party, Mbhazima Shilowa, has criticised ANC for lacking tolerance. Addressing a public debate at the University of Johannesburg in October, Shilowa urged South Africans to “shun and frown upon” those who create no-go areas for certain political parties.

    In a similar vein, Asmal asked: “What values of ethical and principled conduct do we inculcate when under the guise of free speech we allow incitement to violence to remain largely unpunished and unbridled?”

    “If not checked, this can develop into a culture that will assail our constitution, its founding provisions and its institutions,” he cautioned. 

    Asmal lambasted the Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni, for his 28 percent salary increase at a time when the South Africa is facing a “spiraling” inflation problem.

    “… [T]he unethical conduct present in choosing to allow such an increase jeopardises the institution’s credibility, the policy’s authenticity and the stature of the man”, Asmal argued.

    Commenting on the recent violence against foreign nationals, Asmal reiterated political analyst Stephen Friedman’s view that no one knows why the outburst took place. He proposed that government establish a commission of enquiry, whose existence would be to educate the communities about foreign nationals.

    Asmal challenged South African universities to play a key role in inculcating the culture of encouraging student to play a key role in promoting ethics and morality in public life. This he said can be achieved by involving students in tackling public issues.

    "We need to speak out, act and ensure that our own words and deeds contribute to the rejuvenation of the values of ethics and morality that propelled many of us to wage the struggle for our country’s liberation," he said.

    Author(s): 
    Butjwana Seokoma
  • The African Peer Review Mechanism: Lessons from the Pioneers

    The “African Peer Review Mechanism: Lessons from the Pioneers” is an innovative approach to improving African governance. Produced by the South African Institute for International Affairs, the book offers important opportunities for public dialogue. An invaluable resource for civil society and governments, this volume includes an interactive APRM Toolkit CD-ROM with the official APRM guidelines, final country reports, survey instruments, academic papers, video testimonials and a comprehensive collection of the governance codes and standards embraced by the APRM.

    For more information and to order a copy at a cost of R220, click here.
    Source: 
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  • The African Peer Review Mechanism: Lessons from the Pioneers

    The “African Peer Review Mechanism: Lessons from the Pioneers” is an innovative approach to improving African governance. Produced by the South African Institute for International Affairs, the book offers important opportunities for public dialogue. An invaluable resource for civil society and governments, this volume includes an interactive APRM Toolkit CD-ROM with the official APRM guidelines, final country reports, survey instruments, academic papers, video testimonials and a comprehensive collection of the governance codes and standards embraced by the APRM.

    For more information and to order a copy at a cost of R220, click here.
  • Amnesty International Criticises Nigeria Over Executions

    Amnesty International (AI) says death row inmates in Nigeria witness the execution of fellow prisoners and are forced to clean their gallows.

    AI researcher in Nigeria, Aster van Kregten points out that up to 763 people are on death row, there are no fair trials, and hundreds of such convicts could be innocent. Kregten maintains that appeals are often abandoned due to lost case files, noting that the criminal justice system is riddled with corruption, negligence and a lack of resources.

    In the same vein, the US and several human rights groups have reacted by asking Nigeria to overhaul its judicial system to ensure that innocent citizens are not executed based on trumped up charges and the incompetence of the police.

    To read the article titled, “763 Nigerians on death row - Amnesty International,” click here.
    Source: 
    All Africa
  • SABC annual report raises more questions than it answers

    After months of media reports about crises at the SABC and stories detailing feuds between the Board (or sections of it) and senior management (or certain members of the executive), media activists eagerly awaited the release of the public broadcaster’s annual report and financial statements. We wanted to see if the Corporation’s claims that the public has no need to worry are indeed true.

    The report, released on 10 October 2008, certainly does not alleviate concerns about the health of our public broadcaster. Rather it raises even more alarm bells.

    The report covers the annual period up to the end of March 2008 so one cannot expect the gory details about the recent goings (including the spate of suspensions and reinstatements of the CEO). But if leaked documents about the crises are to be believed, the trouble did not only start during this financial year, but dates back much further.

    Reading the annual report does not give any indication that trouble was brewing – in fact it repeatedly states, using glossy euphemisms, that all is “wonderful”. The little actual information that is provided raises more questions than answers. 

    For example, R40.6 million is listed as “fruitless and wasteful” expenditure – but what exactly is this for and what is being done to stop such waste in future? The report only indicates that action is being taken – but then goes on to indicate that the action taken for similar fruitless expenditure in the previous financial year is still pending.

    And why did the SABC spend R76 million on programming it never screened leading to this being “written off”?  Why is this also not regarded as fruitless expenditure (it would seem to be a classic example)? Has action been taken against those responsible? The report is silent on such issues.

    The “Save our SABC” Coalition, was established specifically to focus on making sure public broadcasting in South Africa is relevant and meaningful. As such we have called for a total review of all broadcasting policy and legislation – with the aim of developing a new SABC Act.

    It seems that all stakeholders (including the SABC) agree that you can not look at how to assist the SABC to really fulfill its public mandate without reviewing the over reliance on commercial funding. This consensus however now needs to move beyond paper commitments and public declarations. We need to really look at how much the SABC needs and ways to collect such funds.

    It is not enough, however, for the SABC to simply declare (as it does in the annual report) that the issue of more public funding must be addressed. If it wants public support it on this it needs to show a commitment to meeting its mandate and to being transparent about its spending. PR speak does not count. Frankly, for example, it is not useful to be told about “total citizenship empowerment” or the SABC’s new “green revolution” in human resource policies if there is no direct discussion about how this is going to translate into what we hear on radio and see on television.

    So please, if you are reading, can someone at the SABC answer some of these questions for us (that the annual report is silent on)?

    * What percentage of the budget is spent on programming and what on administration? How does this compare to other years? We need to be able to assess if perceptions that the SABC is becoming top heavy and administration costs are eating into programming budgets.
    * What progress, over time, against specific targets, has been made on the SABC fulfilling its language and local content requirements? Yes we know you stated in the report that you are achieving and exceeding these – but there are no facts and figures to back this up. The report also contains contradictions – while on one hand the report boasts that “up to 80 percent of local programmes now use languages other than English”, deep in the report in a section on regulatory matters, the SABC notes that it “proved difficult to meet” some of the language quotas on television during prime time (though again the extent of the breach of its licence conditions is not detailed)
    * If employee costs have significantly increased (by just over 38 percent) do not simply state this is because of, amongst other things, “the expanding number of employees”. How many new employees have been employed and in what divisions?
    * What also is the funding from government used for? And what did our licence fees contribute towards?

    Another question that needs answering is the amount of money that is transferred from the public commercial channels to cross subsidise the public channels – if any. The main objective of separating the SABC into public and public commercial wings according to the Broadcasting White Paper released in 1998, was to help protect the public wing from over reliance on advertising. However, it does not seem that this vision has worked in practice – it is difficult for example to imagine that three channels can rely on the commercial income from only one of these. The annual report does not give any indication if the model is viable.  If the public is to help the SABC in addressing its funding channels, and fork out more money for licence fees or from our taxes, it seems only fair that the broadcaster gives figures to assist us in evaluating this model.

    A final major question is the SABC’s launch of its new corporate social investment foundation. The question is what is the purpose of this new body? Why is the SABC getting involved in CSI anyway? The annual report claims that the SABC has launched the foundation to “unleash” the broadcaster’s “potential” to “play a meaningful role in the economic and social development… of South Africa.” But surely that is the central role of the broadcaster and not a social add on to its otherwise private sector role? And is it not ludicrous to claim (as the report does) that the value of the 2 700 minutes dedicated by one of the radio stations on “fashion and beauty, cooking, health issues related to women” is a CSI contribution to “women’s issues”? 

    The central missing element in the report is the issue of the SABC’s public mandate – how is the broadcaster actually fulfilling day-to-day its obligations to its public on our screens and over the airwaves?
     
    Kate Skinner is the Coordinator of the “Save our SABC” Coalition.
    Author(s): 
    Kate Skinner
  • SABC Report is Vague and Contradictory – Civil Society

    Civil society activists have strongly criticised the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) latest annual report for its apparent vagueness on crucial detail.

    Spokesperson for the Save Our SABC coalition, Kate Skinner, has been quoted as saying that the most glaring omission of the report is the lack of detail on how it is fulfilling its public mandate, its day-to-day obligations to the public and its central objective as a public broadcaster. 

    Skinner maintains that the report provides little detail on the R40,6 million  listed under what she calls "fruitless and wasteful expenditure" except that action was being taken. She further asks why the R76 million the SABC wasted by not showing programmes it had paid for was not included in this category.

     To read the article titled, “SABC annual report dismissed as vague and contradictory,” click here.


    Source: 
    <br /> All Africa
    Article link: 
  • Sierra Leone Tightens Controls over NGOs

    Officials in Sierra Leone are drafting a new law that will tighten controls on NGOs working in the country, joining other governments demanding more accountability from their donors.

    The move follows an announcement by the Deputy Finance Minister, Richard Contenh, that the NGO sector has largely escaped government oversight.

    "We don't know how much is being spent and what they are doing", says Contenh.

    To read the article titled, “Government tightens control of NGOs,” click here.
    Source: 
    <br /> All Africa
    Article link: 
  • 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance

    The Ibrahim Index of African Governance is a new, comprehensive ranking of sub-Saharan African nations according to governance quality. The Index has been created in recognition of the need for a more comprehensive, objective and quantifiable method of measuring governance quality in sub-Saharan Africa. It assesses national progress in five key areas, which together constitute a holistic definition of good governance.

    For more information, click here .


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