Our zeroes this week are all those who promote the culture of underperforming or crooked employees resigning or reaching settlements, rather than facing the music for irregular activities. This includes those on the giving as well as the receiving side. In many cases the person in question leaves before their contract is up, but is paid out the value of the remaining portion – and sometimes more. While the “golden handshake” has been an accepted part of business for decades, these days it appears to be used increasingly for the wrong reasons – to get rid of a troublesome person quickly and quietly, rather than go to the trouble of launching an investigation, establishing any guilt and then meting out appropriate punishment. Failure and incompetency are handsomely rewarded, and the taxpayer foots the bill, in the case of public officials. The situation was highlighted last week by the departure of controversial Mpumalanga parks CEO Jacques Modipane, who has received an exit settlement believed to be in the region of R5-million. This came after a failed attempt to link him to the theft of rhino horns from the offices of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency in April 2014. The horns were worth R116-million. In the last few months South Africans have seen several bigwigs being paid off to the tune of millions. Former Hawks head Anwa Dramat’s settlement is believed to be around R13-million. Dramat, who is in his mid-40s, will also get R60 000 a month until he turns 60 – he probably will not need to get a job ever again. Former Nelson Mandela Bay Metro municipal manager Graham Richards received two golden handshakes, worth R6-million, after he was fired twice. And what about Mxolisi Nxasana, the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority, who departed in June? His settlement was worth R17-million. It’s getting to the point where South Africa is being called a handshake republic. “Though you are being fired you are being rewarded, getting your money‘s worth regardless of whether you have done a good job or not,” said political analyst Mzoxolo Mpolase. In May Corruption Watch, with other civil society organisations, wrote an open letter to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to express disappointment that Richard Alderman would sit on the high-level advisory panel reviewing OECD efforts on bribery. Alderman was known to favour settlements rather than prosecution, but in essence this is letting perpetrators off the hook without any punishment. Alderman stepped down soon after.