Business as complicit as state in corruption, says Wierzycka


Cape Town – SA's business sector is currently the most problematic stakeholder in South Africa, as it is often as guilty of corruption as the public sector, be it through "commission or omission", according to Magda Wierzycka, CEO of fintech company Sygnia.

She was addressing the Cape Town Press Club on Friday. 

“For every rigged public tender, there is a private sector participant willing to pay. It becomes even more problematic when corporates allow themselves to be used for political purposes,” she said, referring to revelations about the involvement of big international corporates such as SAP, McKinsey and KPMG in alleged corrupt practices.

German software multinational SAP admitted recently that it had paid more than R100m to Gupta-owned entities to secure contracts with Transnet and Eskom for tenders worth R660m.

McKinsey was implicated for securing an allegedly unlawfully contract with Eskom with the help of Gupta-linked Trillian Capital Partners, while KPMG South Africa is currently being investigated for the 2014 audit of Linkway Trading, the company which played a crucial role in allowing the diversion of cash earmarked for the Free State’s Vrede dairy project to reimburse most of the expenses for a Gupta family wedding.

In addition, KPMG will also be probed for its so-called rogue unit report on the South African Revenue Service. On September 15, KPMG announced that it had retracted the findings, recommendations and conclusions of its “rogue unit report” and offered to repay the R23m SARS paid for the report.

Wierzycka said on Friday that the private sector should commit itself to doing business in an ethical manner.  Furthermore, it should support and protect whistleblowers and cease doing business with companies implicated in corrupt practices.

In the beginning of October, she offered Bianca Goodson, the former CEO of Trillian Management Consulting turned whistleblower, a job after Goodson leaked a trove of documents about the Gupta-linked firm where she used to work.

She subsequently offered to resign from Sage, the company where she was employed after Trillian, and the employer allegedly accepted her resignation. 

Wierzycka was highly critical of Sage's behaviour and said the company should have had Goodson's back. 

Sygnia led the charge against corrupt corporates in September this year, when it axed KPMG as its auditors. Wierzycka said at the time that examples had to be made of companies implicated in plunder.

"People are motivated by fear and greed. And if the bottom line of a company is affected, they will think twice about their actions."

Wierzycka also appealed to business to fund civil rights organisations and NGOs which are fighting corruption, and to start a renewed effort to advertise in newspapers and other media platforms. “We need a free press to expose corrupt practices.”

Business should also educate its staff about the cost of corruption and allow them to become ambassadors within their communities. “But first and foremost, business must become visible in its leadership of the fight against corruption,” she said. 

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