Crack down on the crooks in private and public sectors

03 February 2019 - 00:00 By Onkgopotse JJ Tabane

What is painful about the Bosasa debacle is how widespread the practices were. The testimony alleged that this was the case in the public and private sectors.
This is why there was so little or no outrage as Angelo Agrizzi and co were telling tales of tender manipulation.
The only issue is that the Guptas and Watsons were so brazen and unapologetic about their bribery. The Guptas' offer of R600m to buy a future finance minister is totally believable. But the Guptas have given the commission the middle finger.
There is little difference between the two families. Stories abound about how companies even budget for bribes. They attempt to be sophisticated about it in the hope that what happened at Steinhoff, where there was theft of billions, is not exposed. Business development practitioners or salespeople are given inflated bonuses that they use to bribe counterparts in the public sector without implicating their company bosses.
The CEOs try to keep their hands clean by only getting involved in above-board sweetening activities such as overseas trips, weekends away and golfing jamborees where the real decisions about tenders are made.
Companies that approach tenders in an honest way end up with crumbs. Once there are billions involved, like housing and construction projects, you know that politicians and businesspeople have conspired to steal millions, for themselves or their political parties.
The government tender process is corrupted and whenthis system is fully exposed it will show why the fundingof political parties is a crucial part in rebuilding the moral fibre of our society.
Many parties are guilty of stealing from the public purse in this way through their deployees. Individuals in the process also steal big in the name of raising money "for the movement".
There are some who are ready to excuse the likes of Gwede Mantashe and Nomvula Mokonyane. They are said to have "taken one for the movement". We have yet to be told how installing hi-tech security at a home and enjoying obscene amounts of booze and meat benefited the ANC.
I am not surprised by the Bosasa allegations. They are a tip of the iceberg. One hopes that some foot soldiers in the companies that have bribed their way to government tenders will expose even more. What is sad is that some of the most competent ministers are pressured into theft. This is why I have great respect for someone like Naledi Pandor, who asked why some ministers owned so many assets that were out of proportion to their salaries.
Lifestyle audit is a just slogan. It is feared by those who have been systematically stealing from the state over the past 25 years. Zuma's threat to expose those who have been stealing comes to mind. He established a state where there was a conspiracy of silence and an atmosphere where everyone was considered to be corrupt and so had no leg to stand on in criticising their colleagues.
So what is to be done?
Institutions such as the Public Service Commission and the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) have to crack the whip on civil servants who are caught up in the corruption web.
There must be a deliberate effort to root out rotten apples in the civil service. They can start by prosecuting civil servants who have been named for doing business with the government.
The Hawks must start by arresting the Bosasa crooks. The JSE must delist private companies that behave like Bosasa. There are many such companies that bribe withthe knowledge of their shareholders. They have to be dealt with harshly.
Am I naïve? Probably. As naïve as whoever thought, at the height of apartheid, that one day we would have one man, one vote in this country. As naïve as believing that Jesus turned water into wine. I remain a prisoner of hope.
• Tabane is the author of Let's Talk Frankly, an independent commentator and a communications expert

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