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Procurement Transparency Turns Deadly in South Africa

Procurement Transparency Turns Deadly in South Africa

Procurement Transparency Turns Deadly in South Africa
Image via Flickr by Tex Texin

Corruption and lack of transparency are global concerns in public procurement. Emerging markets often face the biggest struggles when it comes to fighting corruption. Some nations are forming watchdog groups to encourage whistleblowers to stand up against corrupt practices, such as Tanzania. In South Africa, however, whistleblowers need protection, not encouragement.

City Power Procurement Specialist Murdered

Just four days after publishing bid request forms for multiple city procurement contracts, City Power employee Oupa Matlaba was fatally shot in his driveway in Johannesburg, South Africa. The November 22, 2011 murder was not heavily publicized, but new details surfaced after the latest procurement scandal involving City Power in January, nearly 14 months later.

It isn’t likely that Matlaba’s death relates to the latest fraudulent tender, but sources say that investigators believe the murder “had something to do with tenders.” Matlaba handled the paperwork for non-production procurement tenders and faced disciplinary action a month before his death. Sources believe the city took action to keep Matlaba quiet.

Other Whistleblower Woes

City Power employees are still afraid to discuss the conditions surrounding the murder. “Before his death, he had gone to a union representative at City Power and divulged some information about tenders. After that, some union leaders went around with 24-hour bodyguards,” one coworker told Mail & Guardian. “People are worried about who’s going to be next on the hit list. We are also concerned that there is no breakthrough in his murder,” another source said.

This isn’t the first case of procurement-related murder in South Africa. Someone gunned down two Mbombela officials in 2009 before they could expose corrupt behaviors in the city’s stadium construction project. In January of 2013, suspects kidnapped and beat an Icasa official to prevent him from taking action against a private business that owed fees to Icasa. The Limpopo Department of Education fired an employee after she helped uncover the 2012 textbook procurement scandal.

On February 7, whistleblowers in South Africa saw a rare win. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela reinstated a Justice Department worker following an investigation that found the circumstances surrounding her dismissal unjust. Madonsela is investigating the City Power procurement allegations as well.

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