Corruption Watch director David Lewis has called on business owners to encourage their employees and customers to become active participants in the battle against corruption.
Speaking at the White Collar Crime and Corruption Seminar held at Melrose Estate on 4 September, Lewis urged businesses to sign the organisation’s anti-corruption pledge, stressing that because business was a major participant in corruption, it had a major role to play in combating it.
The seminar, which was organised by Nortons Inc, in conjunction with the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) and Business Day, hosted discussions on the recent developments in white collar crime and corruption. Local and foreign speakers from the private and public sector discussed recent enforcement trends and the impact of domestic and foreign legislation on South African and regional business.
Corruption Watch appealed to businesses to grant the organisation access to their websites, intranets, closed circuit television channels, team building exercises, customer magazines and any other communications platforms they used. “We want to use these platforms to communicate with your employees and your customers, not principally to encourage them to report on corruption within the particular firms themselves, but to report on corruption that they encounter as citizens, as members of the public,” said Lewis.
The request would be published on the organisation’s website and the response – whether an acceptance or refusal – would also be publicised, he added.
He told business owners that when potential European or American technology partners or investors in South African companies undertook the due diligence necessary to ensure compliance with anti-corruption legislation in their countries of domicile, they would be as much reassured by those who had participated in civil society campaigns and encouraged their employees and customers to participate in these campaigns, as they would be by those who had put in place internal anti-corruption compliance programmes.
Lewis emphasised that corruption was a deeply rooted social phenomenon that could not be tackled by law enforcement instruments alone. “If you want to give meaning to the notion of corporate citizenship then you will get engaged with the difficult business of combating it.”
SACCI chief executive Neren Rau, who spoke about the impact of crime on business and what it meant for organisations, echoed Lewis’s sentiments on the importance of active participation by business in fighting corruption.
“If a country doesn’t have a good reputation for dealing with crime, capital will flow elsewhere.” He added that South Africa ranked 68 out of 182 countries in the global corruption perception index.
Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Willie Hofmeyr spoke about the role of the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) in combating corruption. The unit had frozen 2 700 assets worth nearly R5-billion, R375-million of which had been deposited in an anti-corruption unit account to help fight the crime.
Delegates also heard from the Nortons director, Anthony Norton, who said it was imperative to check where the money they receive came to ensure that the source was in full compliance with the law. He asserted that according to money laundering provisions, if a business received or paid cash above R25 000 it had an obligation to report it.
Business needed to realise that fraud had criminal ramifications, he added. “If South African citizens commit fraud outside the country, they can still be prosecuted in South Africa,” said Norton bringing attention to foreign anti-corruption acts such as the UK Bribery Act.
He also urged civil society to join the fight against corruption by refusing to deal with corrupt businesses.