Trustees and staff of the Institute for African Alternatives,
Esteemed Members of the Academia
Leaders of Civil Society formations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Institute for African Alternatives (IFAA) has, for more than 3 decades, been a vanguard for critical thinking, political consciousness, dialogue, and constructive analysis of South African and African socioeconomic and political issues. As an independent Pan-African institute, the broad policy research and advocacy that IFAA generates and facilitates, is a clarion call to leaders from every sector of society and government to pause, think, reconsider, and then decide which path to take. And, it is in the dissemination of such progressive views and alternative solutions that change-agents can be empowered, and positive, equitable, and inclusive change can be made.
The launch of IFAA’s “Checks and Balances: The Auditor-General Project Report”, is one such contribution to the development and construction of a humane and better managed South Africa for all. A document that not only deep dives into the crux of the challenges that face the financial management of South Africa, but a report that offers delicate scrutiny of the crucial relationships and volatile tension between government departments and their oath of office to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
These insights on the management of public funds, supply change-agents, academics, activists, and indeed public representatives, with an arsenal of knowledge that places them in a position to continue fighting for the people and strengthen our democracy.
It is the strength of our democracy that is being tested during these uncertain times as the world confronts COVID-19, and the scramble to find an equilibrium within the extreme disruptions caused by the pandemic, dissects and reveals the calibre of our leaders and public representatives. To take courage, display conviction, and earn the confidence of the people, are but a few steps in the eternal quest to strengthen democracy. A crusade that bares many moral pitfalls, and finds even the best of us on the backend of a stumble.
A consistent moral leader of our time, whose lifelong dedication to fight injustice, comrade Professor Ben Turok, was one among many who sacrificed their all to attain liberation and strengthen democracy. Professor Turok asked each and every one of us to re-examine whether what we are fed by the status quo is what we actually need, and encouraged an ongoing criticism of passivity and of corrupt governance. He believed that self-enrichment and a departure from the strong moral values so eloquently captured in the preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, are at the heart of government’s failure to lead and service the people of South Africa.
Professor Turok’s work with, understanding, and advocacy of the Constitution is the kind of alert activism that gives effect to the supreme law of our land, and drives the agenda of strengthening constitutional democracy.
Like IFAA and Professor Turok himself, our collective pursuit to promote and ensure constitutional supremacy, is one of the most important endeavours in maintaining and reinforcing constitutional democracy.
Protecting the supremacy of the Constitution is possible because, in a constitutional democracy where power is properly shared by the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, the courts are independent and subject only to the law and the Constitution of the Republic itself. This doctrine of the separation of powers allows for checks and balances to ensure that the separate institutions are monitored and held accountable.
When considering the checks and balances written into our Constitution and the urgent need for just, transparent, efficient, and accountable management of public funds, Professor Turok was deeply concerned and vocal about the open-ended and perilous cycle that played out year-after-year between the Auditor-General, government departments, the National Assembly, and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA). An abysmal cycle that produced routinely bad reports with little or no accountability.
IFAA’s “Checks and Balances: The Auditor-General Project Report”, seeks to investigate and offer tangible solutions as to why and how this damaging cycle is perpetuated, and what remedies can be put in place to ensure the implementation of the Auditor-General’s recommendations.
In the search for concrete steps to improve the financial mismanagement of public funds, and to propel democratic culture within our constitutional democracy, let us respond within the spirit of Professor Ben Turok’s ethical leadership, as he reminds us of our ongoing duty to apply our mind, audit our achievements, scrutinize our modes of operation, and continuously dialogue with each other.
To continue this imperative dialogue and guide us through the questions, measures, and insights that emerge from the Auditor-General Project Report, please join me as I invite and welcome Mr Lawson Naidoo, Executive Secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, to address us.