Public accountability and transparency of parastatal organisations in South Africa : Umgeni Water as an illustrative case.
Mahlangu, Brian Basil Mxolisi.
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South Africa's public institutions are expected to conduct their activities in a way that satisfy the public interest to ensure the welfare of the people. In formulating public policies and in carrying out their duties, these institutions are constitutionally required to be answerable to the communities, particularly in a democratic state. Hence, many community leaders strongly believe that transparency and public accountability can help to expose and reduce large-scale tendencies of financial irregularities and corruption in public agencies. Despite different racial groups, levels of education and occupation the ordinary members of the public are discontented about inadequate accountability and openness of parastatals. This can tend to lead to unethical and irresponsible conduct in government departments and parastatals. Therefore this thesis assesses an emerging challenge experienced by public enterprises in reacting to the urgent need for increased answerability for the behaviour of administrators and officials. Over the past few years, parastatals have attracted heavy criticism from several quarters of various communities for embracing racial discriminatory policies and conniving with departments of the previous government to fortify those racial policies. The veil of confidentiality clause and the right to privacy, which clouded the abuse of political power by both the government and public organisations, shrouded the activities of the parastatals. However, even the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994 did not reduce unethical conduct, such as corruption, patronage and nepotism, among administrators and officials. Instead the scale of these unbecoming tendencies have currently either increased or received more publicity. Frequent financial irregularities are continuously reported, which cause great damage to the image of public organisations and erodes public trust. Therefore, in trying to address these problems attributed to the inadequacy of public accountability and transparency, parastatals have to consider and evaluate several bewildering challenges. The main thing is to critically re-examine the role of public accountability and transparency in public institutions. In doing that, a focus must be on finding answers for the following questions. To whom and how are parastatals accountable? Why is it necessary for them to publicly give full account of their activities to the communities? Essentially, this thesis is particularly concerned with a large parastatal in Kwa-Zulu/Natal, which is chosen a point of references, namely, Umgeni Water Board.