NO ONE should be shocked by the increasing number of private sector companies being outed for having served as Trojan Horses for the loot diverted from public coffers in recent years, especially those that have been benefiting from illicit business links with the Zuptas.
We’ve known all along that there are two sides in any corrupt practice - the corruptor and the corruptor; two corruptors; two corrupt parties. It’s time we did away with the misleading description of one of the parties, usually the one employed by government, as the corrupted, or the unsuspecting victim of outside corruptors.
In many cases, much of the corruption involving government workers gets initiated by them because they hold the power to carefully choose service providers who would be willing to ensure that part of the money to be paid will benefit them in some way.
The only victims of corrupt practices are the many citizens who – even though they often fail to connect the dots - are robbed of the opportunity to benefit from public funds which are diverted into the private bank accounts of the looters.
When this happens, such funds no longer become available to fund government’s delivery of services needed to communities around the country. There is therefore an undeniable link - another dot to connect to the rest - between increasing numbers of often violent service delivery protests and the looting that has gone on seemingly unabated.
It saddens me immensely when “ordinary citizens” allow themselves to be used to defend the looters after having peanuts thrown at them.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng famously did it when he blessed a bunch of broke artists with ill-gotten R50 000 hand-outs while, unbeknown to them, he walked away with the millions. The said artists went on to sing his praises, referring to him as a true leader and liberator. Their tummies were filled for a week and their eyes blinded for much longer when they unwittingly offered themselves as pawns for grand theft by Motsoeneng and his enablers.
Powerful politicians have become adept at this trick of distributing peanuts to buy time for more looting, quieten angry citizens, or pit them against one another to divert their attention from the ongoing looting.
Poor people fall for this old trick all the time.
Private Trojan horses
KPMG, Trillian, Tegeta, Bell Pottinger and all the other companies and individuals, named and yet to be named, who benefited from illicit tenders issued by or corrupt joint ventures with the likes of PRASA, Transnet, Denel, the Strategic Fuel Fund, Eskom, etc deserve the negative press they’re getting.
Those who have begun losing other clients because of huge reputational issues and lost trust do not deserve our sympathy. Auditing firms have a particularly crucial role to play in any society that seeks to promote sound, transparent corporate and political governance. They’re the ones we run to when wrongdoing gets suspected.
They become the scum of the earth when they can no longer be trusted to deliver unbiased reports to inform forensic investigations into grand scale corruption. When auditors fail us, who else do we run to?
Dubious investigations must be stopped
There are still too many cases where dubious “internal investigations”, often commissioned by and reporting to those suspected of the alleged wrongdoing, are said to be in progress. We would be foolish to trust the outcome of such investigations, especially in cases where long periods are allowed to elapse before the reports are released into the public.
People, starting with President Jacob Zuma and his ministers, who lost all credibility long ago can no longer be trusted to act in the interest of all South Africa's people. We have seen how, in the recent past, they splashed millions in public funds to commission judiciary enquiries whose outcome appeared to have been predetermined to suit their agendas, and not clean governance.
The very expensive investigation into the arms deal is one such wastage.
No matter how many times and how loud those who defend it in the name of party unity keep shouting, the Zupta-linked state capture must be confronted for what it is. Despite their false claims, it differs from other alleged state captures in that it takes money directly from the public purse into private banking accounts of those involved in it.
Offshore bank accounts
To make matters worse, much of the loot is now said to have been taken out of the country, either into offshore bank accounts or used to buy luxury foreign pads to prepare for the eventuality of the suspects fleeing the country to escape prosecution.
The noises we often hear, accusing private business of holding onto billions of rands that could be invested to stimulate local economic activity, should also be directed at the looters of state funds. The money they’re alleged to have shipped out of the country could also be used here, to stimulate economic activity. It cannot be right that politically connected thieves are allowed to get away with something they blame others of doing.
For the rest of us, giving up should never be an option. The collusion between unscrupulous private companies and their partners in various public-sector positions may appear overwhelming and unstoppable on the surface, but it will not last forever in its current form.
Amnesty should never be an option for any of them. Their activities have been calculated from the start, driven by greed and total lack of regard for the socio-economic inequalities that could one day lead to civil war and total anarchy if not bridged.
- Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley. Views expressed are his own.