Technology

Technology can help in the fight against corruption

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South Africa is faced with a scourge of corruption of which much is linked to inappropriate procurement and contracts. President Cyril Ramaphosa has made the pledge to South Africans that there will be aggressive and sustained efforts to stamp out this corruption and ensure that money from the government purse benefits those for whom it is intended – local communities, the poor and vulnerable.

In his letter to the nation in late August, President Ramaphosa said that corruption stands as one of the greatest challenges facing society. The President expects a quick response to the current and historical corruption crisis, and technology can play a crucial role. While digital transformation is certainly not possible overnight, the current crisis offers a golden opportunity to accelerate digital innovation and the adoption of new ways of work.

 

Oversight is a massive task

 

Both at a national and provincial level, government faces significant challenges in managing and interrogating data that will reveal unscrupulous or corrupt practices. Keeping track of the disbursement of public funds is a Herculean task. Intelligent technology is an essential enabler to government in this challenge.

Each disbursement of public funds creates new data, (records of where it was from, and to where it has been allocated) and leverages existing data relating to the particular transaction, which means that the accountability of funds must be traced from the source to the recipient. This historic data needs to be leveraged every time a new transaction is generated in order to identify any links to previous suspect or confirmed fraudulent pay-outs. Analytics helps to enable these checks automatically and can generate an alert should anything suspicious be identified. Because of the sheer volume of transactions, it would be impossible to do these checks manually and get anywhere close to real-time decisioning.

 

Data can drive intelligent decision-making

 

The various government departments and entities have access to rich, disparate data sources. Combined with the right analytics programmes and tools, this could enable the proactive prevention of fraudulent outflows of funds.

Using the right tools, the right software and the right technology, it’s possible to consolidate disparate data sources. Analytics can alert us to certain behaviours and aggregate red flags to help shine a light on improper behaviour, and with AI, it’s possible to process huge volumes of data. Visual analytics, AI and machine learning, advanced decisioning, forecasting and optimisation are just some of the tools an end-to-end platform can use to operationalise data and generate insights.

Data and analytics can make a significant positive impact not just in tracking suspicious or fraudulent transactions, but in monitoring procurement and supplier integrity – making sure that the people who win tenders do so in a transparent and legal way. Tax and revenue compliance throughout the supplier chain can be tracked. And finally, an intelligence platform can ensure that investigations are managed in compliance with regulations and the law so that successful prosecutions can be mounted where instances of fraud and corruption are unearthed.

It’s not only in cases of fraud that data and analytics has a key role to play. Technology can be employed to ensure good stewardship of revenue collection, to make sure that the money is spent responsibly and for maximum impact. It can be used to detect wasteful spending to gain a realistic and holistic view of departmental spending, on a national and provincial level.

 

Public-private partnerships can have a positive impact

 

There is a perception, rightly or wrongly, that the public sector is averse to technology, and that it is not ready or prepared for digital transformation. However, we know that significant investments have already been made into legacy systems. The challenge remains that these systems are not yet being used to their full capacity. The situation requires a mindset change. Here, public-private partnerships can prove invaluable in accelerating the government’s digital transformation goals. As partners to government, organisations like SAS can provide valuable resources and skills to collaborate and deliver maximum impact.

 

SAS supports using data for good

 

As a company, SAS is dedicated not only to the intelligent use of data and analytics, but to ensuring that the resulting information drives impactful positive change in our society. By working with national and provincial governments to drive digital transformation and deploy the right solutions to help crack down on fraud and misuse of the public purse, we can ensure better outcomes for the citizens of our country. SAS is more committed than ever to the belief that knowledge is empowering, and that putting the most advanced technology to work in innovative ways can help benefit citizens and every sphere of government.

By Nonduduzo Mkhize, Associate Account Executive; Public Sector, SAS South Africa

 

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