At the Daily Maverick Business Against Corruption event held at Summer Place in Hyde Park on Thursday, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan made it clear that if South Africans were serious about the fight against corruption, this fight could not be limited only to wrongdoings committed by the government but must extend also to the corporate world.
“Whether you’re in the private or public sector. Every one of us has a choice, either to be rotten or not. We shouldn’t detach corruption from human choice. We get to choose which road we get to take,” the minister said.
Gordhan brought up the issue of “accountability and transparency, or lack of” in the corporate world.
“Who are we accountable to? The question is whether a CEO is sufficiently accountable to the board,” he said.
Gordhan said business must also be held accountable for its role in state corruption.
“When we come to business against corruption, some companies have been very complicit in [the] saga at SARS,” he said.
“See what Judge Nugent’s report says about Bain and KPMG and a lack of contrition.”
Gordhan said all that was received from these companies was “a hurried apology and repayment of fees”.
“Is that all we want from these entities, as a South Africans, considering the damage they have done?” he added.
“It’s not about righting the image of the firms involved, South Africans deserve more.
“In business, self-interest has become the dominant factor,” Gordhan alleged.
The minister ended his speech by calling on South Africa to treat its whistleblowers better.
“How do we treat whistleblowers, as the ones who have made a choice to stand up and expose corruption, and many of whom find themselves in a vulnerable and pathetic place?” he asked.
“A vigilant and well-supported civil society is going to be an important factor in the future,” he said in conclusion.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)