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South Africa has some “excellent institutions”, such as the South African Reserve Bank, the National Treasury, financial regulators, the competition authorities, the JSE and the sophisticated justice system that are “keeping the country afloat”, said Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis, speaking at the Chartered Secretaries’ Premier Corporate Governance conference on Tuesday.

Discussing the topic A corporate role in combating corruption: Beyond compliance, he noted that these entities complied with the law and adhered to the highest governance standards.

“It is no coincidence that so many of our best performing companies from a governance perspective are subject to the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, but, whatever the reason for their excellence, I’m certain that the law enforcement risks are among them,” he explained.

Lewis further stated that there were too few of these institutions, adding that, if too many stumbled, the country would soon find itself sliding further down the global corruption indices.

“We’ve already slid down pretty far; uncomfortably close to countries such as Russia, India and Greece, where corruption has been instilled so deep that there is no realistic turnaround. The trick is to make our good institutions the standard to which others aspire, which multiplies the institutions that hold South Africa on their shoulders,” he said.

Lewis also noted that, while South Africa had one of the best anti-corruption statutes in the world, it was not being enforced. He stressed that companies should ensure that employees that are found guilty of corruption be punished appropriately and publicly, and also ensure that internal anti-corruption programmes were applied to each joint venture partner, supplier and customer.

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