Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest levels of corruption worldwide, according to Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index. With an overall score of 43 out of 100, the index also indicates that South Africa is significantly worse off than its neighbours, Botswana and Namibia. With this in mind, the proposed amendments contained in the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Bill may offer some much needed support in combatting corruption in the country.
This is according to Keeran Madhav, Director of Forensic Services at Mazars, who believes that the proposed amendments will bolster South Africa’s existing anti-corruption legislation and bring it in line with international best practices. “Unfortunately, it does not seem to have received as much attention as it deserves since being drafted for public commentary at the start of 2018. In light of international anti-corruption day on 9 December, I want to remind the public of this bill and encourage support of its implementation in the near future.”
Madhav explains that while the existing legislation holds officials in a position of authority to account for any corrupt activities such as accepting bribes, the corporate liability of companies that participate in corrupt acts is still severely limited. “At the moment, the Companies Act and the Competition Commission Act are the only two pieces of legislation that really address the issue of corruption in the private sector. The proposed amendments to the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Bill close a lot of the existing loopholes and makes the implementation of internal compliance program obligations of companies more stringent. In this regard, it can help to make it much more risky for commercial entities to participate and encourage corruption.”
With that said, Madhav adds that citizen engagement is one of the most crucial elements to successfully containing corruption in South Africa. “We have seen from past experience that the public plays a huge role in exposing corruption and corrupt practices. Whistleblowers within organisations have contributed to some of the most important pieces of evidence in the biggest corruption cases of recent years.”
Furthermore, he also urges private organisations to become more aware of the risks that they face from acts of corruption and put the right measures in place to prevent their involvement in corrupt practices and scandals. “If the proposed amendments to South Africa’s anti-corruption laws are put into effect, guilty companies could face some devastating consequences. It is therefore extremely important for businesses to take steps to implement measures such as internal control procedures; whistleblowing hotlines; regular corruption risk assessments; assessment of clients, suppliers and intermediaries; accounting controls; and training of their employees.
“At the same time, individuals need to realise the power that they have to help expose corruption by being aware of the issue and reporting corrupt practices if they ever witness it,” he adds.
In closing, Madhav reiterates that combating corruption is not solely the duty of lawmakers and government officials. “Every private organisation and individual should adopt a zero-tolerance approach towards corruption if we are to start making a real difference,” he concludes.