FILE: Chair of the state capture commission Raymond Zondo (L) handed over the first part of the report to President Cyril Ramaphosa (R) on 4 January 2022. Picture: GCIS

Following the release of the first Zondo Commission report last week and recommendations for developing a National Charter against Corruption, Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) CEO Busi Mavuso says such a move would be a “natural fit” to the BLSA’s Integrity Pledge, which commits every member to actively combat corrupt activities wherever they are encountered, adopting a zero-tolerance approach.

BLSA members in August 2017 signed a pledge as part of the organisation’s strategy to combat corruption.

“The first Zondo Commission report is an important moment for our democracy. It provides a definitive record of critical aspects of State capture and adds momentum to the project of rebuilding our institutions and delivering justice,” Mavuso says.

She adds that the report details much of the “shocking” corruption of State institutions during most of former President Jacob Zuma’s presidency, including perversion of procurement processes and, relatedly, interference in the appointment of senior leadership.

“This first report puts together the details particularly in the case of South African Airways and the South African Revenue Service [Sars], as well as detailing the abuse of procurement across the public sector and the collapse of governance in State-owned enterprises.

“It details the deliberate and malicious nature of these attacks, which were clearly calculated to thwart our democratic dispensation for the benefit of a few,” she explains.

Having studied the report, Mavuso says BLSA paid specific attention to the role of business in the recommendations that the commission has made. “We welcome these and look forward to working with social partners to support the necessary legislative changes, particularly where they affect business.”

In this regard, she says BLSA is keen to pursue the National Charter against Corruption recommendation. “Business will be happy to work with our social partners in government and civil society to develop a National Charter.”

UNITED EFFORT

Developing such a charter will require a national effort that places binding commitments on many institutions in South Africa.

Here, the Zondo Commission proposes the charter be given legal status with its own legislation, providing a means to create clear accountability and sanctions to deliver a genuinely zero tolerance approach.

“We must develop the charter in a way that enables our other legislation such as the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act and the Protected Disclosures Act,” states Mavuso.

One of the frustrations of the State capture years was that, despite having the right statutes on paper, local institutions were often unable to act, she says.

Therefore, a corruption combatting charter must spell out how institutions need to be robust and capable, with laws that become real guides in the fight against corruption. “The Charter can complement the Zondo Commission’s further recommendation to establish an independent agency against corruption in public procurement together with an inspectorate, tribunal and court of appeal,” says Mavuso.

She adds that these recommendations must contribute to restoring the institutions of South Africa’s criminal justice system, including the police and prosecution services.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

In terms of BLSA having a past business relationship with consulting firm Bain – a firm that had a part in the so-called restructuring of Sars to facilitate corrupt activities – Mavuso says the firm was reappointed to its membership because it made satisfactory changes through several interventions that realised past mistakes.

Bain was suspended as a BLSA member in September 2018 following revelations in the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into Sars.

In suspending Bain, she says BLSA urged the firm to repay, in full, all consulting fees earned, together with interest; appoint an independent inquiry and continue to cooperate fully with the authorities; and to the extent that the wrongdoing was found to have systemic or institutional causes, BLSA requested that the relevant systems be changed and institutional reforms undertaken.

“Over the next two and half years, work was done with Bain’s leadership to understand the changes made within the organisation to prevent a future reoccurrence,” says Mavuso.

As such, in April 2021, the BLSA board subsequently resolved to readmit Bain after it satisfied itself of the key interventions implemented by the company, including the appointment of an independent board chairperson, the implementation of risk protocols for public sector clients and increased level of oversight by Bain & Company international.

Also, Bain undertook to implement proper client analysis and conduct oversight on procurement processes.

The decision to readmit Bain was not taken lightly, she says. “Bain’s responses were interrogated diligently and the work the firm undertook to redeem itself ultimately satisfied the board that it qualified to be readmitted.”

However, Mavuso says BLSA supports the Zondo Commission’s recommendation for appropriate investigation of Bain’s public sector contracts in general and the contracts with Sars in particular.

“Such an investigation would speak to the behaviour of the firm and its key individuals during the period. If there were any breaches of the law, we would fully support that all legal remedies be fully implemented.”

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