There is still critical work to be done to ensure corrupt elements “who still remain and get paid by the public purse” do not undermine South Africa’s recovery from state capture, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has said.
Gordhan was speaking at an event hosted by online publication Daily Maverick on Thursday, themed ‘Business Against Corruption’.
“Perhaps one should not talk about the concept of business against corruption. We should look at the often-overlooked concept of business and corruption,” he said.
“What we have seen in the various commissions of inquiry is that there was a whole mix of people involved in what we traditionally called corruption.”
The search was on for funds illicitly paid to the Guptas and others during state capture, he said, but it would be challenging to find it and ensure the money was paid back. But, he added, initial steps had been taken.
Furthermore, due to globalisation and technology, any monies paid as part of corruption “can disappear with one click of a mouse”.
People involved in corruption ranged from politicians and public servants to people in the private sector, he added.
“Sometimes black-owned companies were involved, sometimes white-owned companies, sometimes South African companies and sometimes international companies,” said Gordhan.
Corruption is aided by those “hidden” in the process who either mask or facilitate it, he said.
These include lawyers, bankers, auditors and law enforcement officials.
According to Gordhan, this can lead to a toxic relationship between some in political office or representing the state, and those in the private sector seeking profit to serve their shareholders.
These relationships merit scrutiny, he said.
‘As old as humanity’
“Corruption is as old as humanity itself. It is the tendency to benefit oneself and rob someone else to advance yourself,” Gordhan told delegates.
“We need to debate in the private and public sector about the extent to which boards control managers and whether they have sufficient detail on what is going on – a line of sight.”
We all have a choice whether to listen to an instruction that will enable fraud, or whether to be a whistleblower, he noted.
“Do not detach corruption from human choice.”
Gordhan argued the SA economy is not yet inclusive, and monopolies – including the likes of Eskom and Transnet – can make it easier for corruption to occur.
“We must ask some tough questions about the corporate sector and society in general. This goes for accountability and transparency in both the public and private sector or the lack thereof. Is a CEO sufficiently accountable to the board and the board to the shareholders?
“One CEO, for instance, wanted to decide who sits on the board and who not. What kind of mindset is this, to have a say in who manages you?” asked Gordhan.
“We often talk about state capture in SA, but there are also captured boards.”