ANATOMY OF CORRUPTION

By Peter O’Brien

Cases of corruption are so common that you need a good excuse to write about another one. So how do we justify commenting on the South African scandals involving the Gupta family, at least one of the country’ most significant state-owned enterprises (SOE), a slew of well-known international firms, prominent local law offices, the uses of public law and actions of key monitoring and regulatory bodies –and ultimately the chronic misuse of political power for private gain? The justification is that what has been happening in RSA reveals in the clearest and richest form the way corruption behavior and patterns evolve across the globe. The Gupta model allows us to spell out exactly what to expect elsewhere. In a word, Gupta is generic, it is the DNA for the species.

Where should we start among the several streams that form part of the big river that is Gupta?  Let’s take a wedding as entry point. In 2013, four partners of KPMG South Africa attended a wedding, held in Sun City and spread over four days, of a prominent Gupta family member. The reported bill for the event was around R30mn. That cost was put down in the 2014 accounts, audited by KPMG South Africa, as a business expense of an RSA registered company, Linkway Trading, controlled by the Gupta family.  Linkway had received funds, to the tune of more than $8mn, from another Gupta controlled entity called Estina, which is a dairy producing enterprise in the Orange Free State. Estina itself was at that time receiving substantial subsidies (reported by 2014 to amount to some R210mn) from the Orange Free State government.

Examination of emails obtained from KPMG showed that, from 2008 onwards, the firm had helped the Gupta group to establish at least 36 entities, mostly shell companies set up in Dubai. It appears that Linkway had received the money for the wedding from one such firm – after transferring at least part of the Estina subsidy cash to Dubai. In short: Orange Free State government money intended to help the dairy industry in that State was being spent to pay for a wedding in the Gupta family, that expenditure was then made tax deductible for a Gupta owned firm audited by KPMG South Africa, and partners of KPMG were invited to the wedding financed by the subsidy money (at which wedding it seems likely that more than the bride and groom were being toasted). Who was being milked in the whole process? Answer: the tax payers in RSA.

The Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) in South Africa was already uneasy about KPMG/Gupta group relations in 2014, and began enquiries in that year. In 2015 KPMG itself was also clearly feeling jittery, so it terminated its 15 year relationship with Linkway. While IRBA work was going on, KPMG involvement in another serious matter, the so-called SARS (South Africa Revenue Service) case, was under scrutiny and the firm claims that it terminated that relationship as well in March 2016. By the following month, April 2016, the Head of KPMG in RSA decided to terminate services to Gupta related firms, citing “association risk” to other KPMG business. Furthermore, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), the official body responsible for compliance with the RSA Companies Act, began to check behavior of three KPMG Directors to discover whether that was compliant with legal stipulations. As of now (late September 2017), even the Institute of Directors of Southern Africa has suspended all “cobranding activities” with KPMG, to limit possible image damage to other firms stemming from association with that entity. Corporate corruption is clearly a transmissible disease. Once a virulent strain is identified, everyone seeks to protect themselves.

The second major process concerns McKinsey, Eskom (a major, perhaps the major, SOE), and Trillian Capital Partners (a private RSA financial advisory firm linked with the Gupta family). Here the corruption chain centers around public tenders and the allocation of monies related to them. Some three years ago McKinsey was awarded contracts by Eskom worth around one half of McKinsey’s total revenue in the country. In 2015-2016, approximately 30% of this contract money was paid to Trillian, allegedly because Trillian was a company subcontracted by McKinsey to help fulfil the undertakings with ESKOM. The investigative work surrounding these transactions, work which includes the Budlender Report delivered on 29 June 2017 to the current non-executive President of Trillian, Tokyo Sexwale, indicates very strongly that Trillian has not performed any substantive work in return for the very large amounts of money it has received (based on accounts data, paid invoices and similar information, ESKOM has paid approximately R1.6bn to McKinsey and Trillian).

McKinsey must have realized at a relatively early stage that the whole process was dubious. In March 2016 it ended its relationship with Trillian, and in June 2016 did the same with ESKOM. When, at the beginning of 2017, Budlender was asked to investigate Trillian dealings, the issues he was requested to examine included (but were not confined to) the politically exceptionally delicate matter of the dismissal, in 2014, of the then RSA Finance Minister Nene and his replacement by Minister Van Rooyen. Specifically, Budlender was asked to determine whether the CEO of Trillian had prior knowledge of the dismissal; if so, whether Trillian had used such information for commercial purposes; whether Trillian had provided the Special advisor to the new Finance Minister and that this person would arrange for public tenders from the National Treasury and SOEs to be directed (at least in part) towards Trillian; and whether Trillian had subsequently invoiced some SOE for work which had not been done.

Budlender’s report, of 29 June 2017, lists a veritable litany of instances where Trillian totally failed to cooperate with an enquiry which had been launched by the firm itself. The mechanisms through which it stonewalled, employing the services of a well- known RSA law firm to do this, are set out in the report. Given non-cooperation, definitive proof of the various illegalities alleged to have been committed by Trilian, ESKOM officials, McKinsey and possibly others, has so far proved impossible to obtain. It is for that reason that Budlender concludes, inter alia, that an official enquiry is required which would thus allow persons and documents to be sub-paened.

This month, September 2017, Corruption Watch South Africa has laid Corruption and Bribery Charges against McKinsey in front of the US Justice Department. On the basis of the material summarized here, plus additional information, McKinsey is being accused under the Foreign Corruption Practices Act. Corruption Watch has noted that a number of McKinsey staff had not been in favor of the linkages with Trillian but that their misgivings had apparently been ignored by senior management.

The third issue concerns a very well- known public relations firm called Bell Pottinger. In January 2016 it was hired by a private South African firm, Oakbay Investments Productivity Limited. Oakbay also has significant links with the Gupta family. Bell Pottinger was asked to work on two things: corporate communications, and a campaign to promote “economic emancipation”. This fine sounding phrase was a front for an effort to shift the investment field in  favor of certain groups in the population. Both the aim of the campaign, and the specific way it was carried out, led to Bell Pottinger being accused of fueling racial tensions in RSA.

Bell Pottinger has claimed that it only took on these “high risk clients” and “high risk mandates” after much discussion at top level. It seems safe to say that the heads of the company figured that the prospective rewards justified the risks. The work continued until April 2017, by which time there was so much adverse publicity hitting this public relations firm that it called a halt. It asked an RSA law firm, Herbert Smith Freekills LLP, to look into possible failings of its decision making and monitoring procedures. The brief summary of that report which is publicly available concludes that there was indeed poor management and poor monitoring. Bell Pottinger has responded by saying that it will “develop an ethics committee”, “develop and train staff on social media policy”, and “reissue corporate policy in a new employee handbook”. This verbiage carries as much conviction as the English Prime Minister (still, as I write) Theresa May, claiming she wants a “strong and special relationship with the EU”.

The Democratic Alliance of South Africa, noting what had happened, accused Bell Pottinger of “exploiting racial tensions on behalf of the Gupta family”, and took its complaint to the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA). This an international professional body comprising some 20,000 members in 55 countries. It seeks to create, maintain and monitor the highest professional standards in this ever more delicate field. PRCA began its investigation on 5 July, and both the Democratic Alliance and Bell Pottinger presented written and oral evidence. The Professional Practices Committee of PRCA delivered its verdict on 18 August. Bell Pottinger appealed the verdict but the Board of PRCA confirmed the verdict on 4 September.

The conclusions are damning. Bell Pottinger was found to have breached four very important clauses of the PRCA code of conduct. The behavior of the firm was held to have been faulty at every level and to have brought the reputation of the industry into disrepute. Bell Pottinger has been expelled as a member of the PRCA. This is the most severe penalty ever imposed in the near 50 year existence of PRCA.

The three cases allow us to describe the key features of the anatomy of corruption.

First, public and private entities, and their governing bodies/principal officials, are always tempted to sail very close to the wind. Enough prospective rewards will induce almost every group to take major risks.

Second, where there is political protection from the top of the State, the chains involving Ministries, SOE, Private firms and sometimes legal entities can divert and misuse public monies.

Third, the costs suffered by an economy/society will usually come in various forms. These include direct theft of funds; excess costs of investments and operations financed by public funds; loss of confidence in public institutions; and international damage to the reputation of the country.

Fourth, the reactions of private firms implicated in the gathering storms are too little, too late and too timid. This is true for major international groups as well as national firms.

Fifth, it follows that self-regulation and self-correction are non-starters. Without sharp sanctions from external bodies, that could in some instances be industry related, the patterns will continue.

Sixth, it is paradoxical that greed (or hubris) may often be the best hope to stem the corruption. As those practicing dishonesty become more successful, so they become over confident. It is when over stretch occurs that there is the best chance for crippling the corruption.

Seventh, public actions, usually channeled through active organizations and NGOs, can be effective. Still more, they can also succeed in securing international penalties for actions carried out in a specific country. International firms will have to pay greater attention to that kind of “collateral damage”. Their ability to engage in internal monitoring of their whole networks must be improved – “no affiliate is an island”.

This analysis has used three examples from RSA where a common theme has been the influence exerted by a powerful family, the Guptas, and their linkage with the political pinnacle of the State. But, alas, there are countless similar examples, in countries across the world and at every level of economic development. Evidence seems to suggest that the incidence of this behavior is increasing, despite the vigilance and activism of so many people and organizations.

How can we improve capacities to prevent and correct corruption? In the past, efforts centered around four things – the moral, the economic, the political, and the legal. The moral focused on the ethics of behavior. Individuals were supposed to have sufficient personal and professional principles such that their behavior would reject corrupt practices. The economic focused on market morphology. Companies would be kept at “arms -length” from each other, so that competition would prevent carve-ups. Still today, competition law exists primarily to preserve that kind of corporate distance. The political focused on the separateness of private from public decision making, and on the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government. Finally, the legal focused on assessing cases where corruption was thought to have occurred, determining appropriate penalties, and ultimately feeding back findings so that law making could be improved.

Across the globe, those four areas have come under ever greater siege. There are no reliable “barriers to corruption” under any of those headings. Seemingly infinite drafting of codes of voluntary conduct, regulations, national laws, and international agreements, seems to have provided precious little protection. The odd case might be prevented, the odd penalty might frighten people for a while. Yet that’s about the sum total. RSA itself will, as of 2023, introduce mandatory audit firm rotation every 10 years (thereby echoing a similar step taken in the EU earlier this decade). But this is a very timid move, and nobody seriously expects it will make much difference (either in RSA or the EU).

Perhaps it is time to long at the problem from a different angle. Which one? Corruption comes when groups, institutions and individuals that should be operating independently decide to collude for mutual benefit. So would it be smart for actors on the other side to collaborate a lot better? Put it this way. Suppose official legal bodies started to work much more closely with private associations and the media (the latter including activist organizations) to prevent malpractice, expose it where it does occur, and devise fresh ways of retribution on those responsible for corruption. Of course there is a certain degree of collaboration already (even including international collaboration, where the RSA examples here are revealing). But it seems the scope for it is considerable. It won’t take us to any ideal situation – the risk/reward  link will always be a major temptation. Still, things might improve a bit, and that is what we must strive for.

 

Peter O’Brien, Bratislava, 24 September 2017

 

 

 

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Did U.S. Meddle with Zuma Corruption Investigation? There’s a new Sheriff in Town

Ex-Public Protector Criticised for Accepting American & German Funds in Effort to Stamp out Government Fraud

Ms. Thuli Madonsela, her immediate predecessor, has denied the claims: “It’s a lie that we used consultants. It’s a blatant lie that we used USAID money, ever.”  The American government, however, acknowledged quite freely its financial support of the Public Protector’s work.  In the USAID’s own words (PDF):

USAID support was designed in collaboration with GIZ, the Department of Justice, and the Public Protector of South Africa (PPSA), to provide technical assistance to specific areas of the PPSA’s five-year strategic plan, and, through it, assistance to the African Ombudsman and Mediator’s Association (AOMA). The assistance was designed to build the capacity of the PPSA to use its own resources more effectively as it faces the challenges associated with an increase in the number and complexity of complaints investigated by the office. It supports the PPSA with training needs for investigators, specifically in investigation skills, anticorruption and fraud, alternative dispute resolution and report writing, all of which will increase their effectiveness and help to standardize practices across the PPSA. The PPSA has also highlighted a need for training in human resources, and also, assistance with outreach activities to reach rural and marginalized people will be supported to enhance accessibility. Assistance to the AOMA would be beneficial to the stature and respect accorded to the office and will contribute to strengthening good governance and democratic principles around the continent.

Andreas Stargard, an attorney with Pr1merio Africa advisors, points out the glaring questions that arise from the facts known thus far:

The independence of the OPP is at the heart of the agency’s mission.  Foreign funding can be quite innocuous, or it can indeed present a thinly disguised opportunity for another nation to meddle in domestic affairs.

Here, the discrepancy between Ms. Madonsela’s denial and the official USAID release is a bit hard to swallow.  Apparently, PriceWaterhouseCoopers were retained by the Office to help compile the Report on President Zuma’s entanglement with the Gupta family within the narrow 30-day window of time that was available to the Public Protector.  It is not clear to us whether U.S. funding was actually used, but there are good arguments on both sides.

Even more interestingly, the $500,000 total in foreign funding claimed by the media needs to be unpacked in greater detail: the half-million dollar amount was “identified” by USAID in 2015 “in reprogrammed funding to commit to democracy and governance programming.”  Yet, it was (1) made jointly with the German government‘s equivalent of the USAID (GIZ); (2) committed at only the 50% level until now (the final $250,000 tranche was to follow, supposedly, in “mid-2017”); and (3) signed merely on August 19, 2016, purportedly after “several months of program design involving all project stakeholders.”

The new Sheriff in town

The new Sheriff in town

A U.S. embassy spokesperson was quoted by media to say that the money thus far donated via the GIZ collaboration had been widely discussed within government circles.  The former Public Protector’s detractors, however, claim that the U.S.-backed funding renders her office’s independence doubtful, according to one of her critics, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association: “America cannot fund you without putting their interests first.”

Ms. Madonsela’s final Report, has not been released publicly, as both President Jacob Zuma and Cooperative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen applied for and obtained judicial intervention, preliminarily enjoining publication of the so-called #stateCapture Report‚ which was to be released last Friday.  The Gupta family ties certainly may have played a role in the officials’ expressed desire for privacy.

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela says no government institution has received foreign funding directly. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

$1 billion per year lost to corruption: a Nigerian saga

A protester sports an anti-corruption T-shirt in Lagos.

$1 billion per year lost to corruption

Recently, AAF reported on the multi-faceted PR efforts of the new Buhari regime to clean up the soiled image of “corrupt Nigerian politics” — among other things, by staging photo ops with World Bank leaders, charging former government officials with bribery, and moving ahead on basic appointments.

Today, the Guardian reports that the Nigerian Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed, “kicked off a corruption awareness campaign appealing to Nigerians to join the fight,” noting that the previous regime’s embedded corruption had “enriched a small elite but left many Nigerians mired in poverty, despite the country being Africa’s top oil producer and having the continent’s biggest economy.”

AAF spoke with John Oxenham, a legal expert on anti-corruption measures with Africa advisory firm Pr1merio.  Oxenham comments:

“The Buhari administration is finally making good on its promises, it would seem, as it had thus far been slow to implement even the most basic of administrative tasks, such as appointing a proper cabinet.  As previously pointed out on your site, the visit with Ms. Lagarde and her advisors serves to enhance visibility and (hopefully) honest dedication to the anti-corruption efforts.  At Primerio, we work with several foreign private entities that express concern over doing business in Nigera, given its reputation.  While we can advise on compliance and risk-avoidance (keyword FCPA etc.), the Nigerian government’s efforts to stamp out corruption from within are helpful, as well, in developing a more robust foreign-direct-investment climate.”

That said, the Buhari camp must be careful not to create the appearance of using the “war against corruption” as a sham front for silencing the opposition under the guise of rooting out fraud.  “Employing the help of the courts — presumptively more impartial and fair than the political process — is therefore key to the government’s fight against graft in Nigeria,” says Andreas Stargard, also with Primerio.

“The estimated $1 billion per year lost to corrupt dealings over the past 7 years is staggering, especially when taking into account that these are merely the official figures — our Africa economists estimate that the actual loss to corruption amounts to an even larger share of the (significant) Nigerian GDP.”

And so the Nigerian saga continues…

“Just a math issue”: Anti-Corruption Efforts in Kenya take Center-Stage for Obama

File Jul 25, 11 51 17 AM

Anti-Corruption Efforts will Require some “Visible Prosecutions”

President Obama opined that it was “absolutely the right thing to do for President Kenyatta [to] emphasize” the Kenyan government’s stepped-up anti-corruption efforts.  He called public corruption potentially “the biggest impediment to Kenya growing even faster.”

“Just a math issue”

Business efforts being “constantly sapped” was a real risk to foreign direct investment, as Obama pointed out: “International businesses are concerned if the price of investing in Kenya is 5-10% going to some place that doesn’t have anything to do with the project.  It’s just a math issue.”

Acknowledging that corruption is not only an African problem (noting that even the U.S. and his hometown of Chicago had faced significant public fraud & bribery problems), the President highlighted what AAF has often stated: anti-corruption efforts imply serious cultural changes and necessary at both the top as well as the grassroots levels.  They will “require some change in habits,” and most notably “require some visible prosecutions,” according to Obama.

It is not hard to predict that President Kenyatta’s cabinet will see more shake-ups as a result of the promised stepped-up anti-corruption efforts.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission offices in Nairobi

As we noted in “Increased anti-corruption enforcement across Africa?“:

“You will read about record-breaking fines imposed; and you will hear about ever-longer jail sentences for violators.  African nations are no different in this regard than the U.S., where the DOJ has an annual tradition, almost invariably touting record-setting numbers resulting from its various enforcement divisions.  Even a quarter billion dollars of cumulative fines in South Africa are insufficient evidence of true deterrence, however — what is needed going forward is a culture of anti-corruption compliance, which goes deeper and spreads its roots more widely throughout the business & governmental community than any single record fine or jail sentence can ever accomplish,” says Andreas Stargard, an attorney with Primerio, an Africa-focused law firm and boutique business consultancy, advising on anti-corruption and competition & regulatory matters across the continent.

In sync with greater enforcement: Firms’ compliance budgets grow

deloittecompliance

CCOs say that with more investigations comes (slightly) more money

According to a recent survey, the budgets allocated to compliance have grown over the last year, including those of African participants in the study.  Consulting giant Deloitte has released its 2015 Compliance Trends report, the result of its survey in which 20 large corporations across Africa (out of 364 total qualified respondents) participated.

Below, we summarise some its key conclusions on…

The Role of the Chief Compliance Officer

Taken together, these statistics … suggest that most CCOs, especially those at larger corporations, now have an opportunity to participate in high-level discussions about corporate strategy, values, and culture.

The key items under the CCO’s responsibility were:

  1. compliance training,
  2. code of conduct, and
  3. whistleblower hotline.

Primerio director John Oxenham observes that, “unfortunately, the assessment of culture was perceived as the least important among the CCOs’ responsibilities.  This is a serious problem, as pointed out in prior articles emphasising the importance of a culture of compliance, rather than sterile top-down pronouncements that often go unheeded by mid-level management.”

African Companies

While firms from the continent have increased their compliance budgets (about 16% by 10 to 19%, and many more by 1 to 9% over the past year) along with their U.S. and European counterparts, they are perceived to be dilatory in their evaluation of their own compliance efforts and results, and lacking in their ability to make full use of their compliance efforts.  In short, many still (wrongly) view dollars spent compliance as a “grudge cost.”

Significant enforcement in Africa (both in the anti-corruption and competition-law domains) across various sectors of the economy (food, technology, construction, to name a few) have awakened many corporate boardrooms across Africa to the reality of effective home-grown government enforcement.

Information Technology and Compliance

IT Systems have not fared well in the latest report:

One possible disconnect emerges when asking CCOs about the IT systems they use to fulfill their missions: Most are not terribly confident in their IT systems’ ability to do the job. Only 32 percent of respondents were confident or very confident in their IT systems, down from 41 percent in 2014

Interestingly, smaller organisations with less than $5 billion in annual revenues showed higher levels of confidence in their IT systems when juxtaposed to their larger peers.

Increased anti-corruption enforcement across Africa?

Chimera

Chimera or Reality — Is Africa stepping up its anti-graft game?

If one is to believe the media attention that has been bestowed upon anti-corruption enforcement by various African jurisdictions, there has been an uptick in successful anti-graft campaigns across the continent.  Or is there…?  Has Africa truly embraced the prosecution of well-to-do businessmen and government officials?  As one practitioner observes, mere penalty statistics (albeit impressive in terms of pure figures) are far from enough:

“You will read about record-breaking fines imposed; and you will hear about ever-longer jail sentences for violators.  African nations are no different in this regard than the U.S., where the DOJ has an annual tradition, almost invariably touting record-setting numbers resulting from its various enforcement divisions.  Even a quarter billion dollars of cumulative fines in South Africa are insufficient evidence of true deterrence, however — what is needed going forward is a culture of anti-corruption compliance, which goes deeper and spreads its roots more widely throughout the business & governmental community than any single record fine or jail sentence can ever accomplish,” says Andreas Stargard, an attorney with Primerio, an Africa-focused law firm and boutique business consultancy, advising on anti-corruption and competition & regulatory matters across the continent.

Over the next weeks, AAF will be investigating this “trend” of enhanced enforcement — and analyse whether it is real or only perceived.  Today, we begin with two case examples, one from the East and one from the South, both of which have recently been featured in the media with seemingly impressive news to report…

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission offices in Nairobi

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission offices in Nairobi

Example ‘A’: Kenya

George Wachira, a director of Petroleum Focus Consultants, writes in the Business Daily that, “over the past six months a series of events have given Kenyans some hope that this time around we may be on the right path in shaking the roots of corruption.”  He cautions, however, that the ongoing fight against corruption will yield results only “if sufficiently supported by all,” echoing Andreas Stargard’s observation of the importance of a universal “culture of compliance”:

The fight against corruption cannot survive merely on the push of top leadership. There must be in place support from effective and sustainable systems and institutions that can routinely function without prompting or interference. And recently some of these institutions have been undergoing a real-life test. … With clear and strong messages and actions from the top leadership it becomes easier to address corruption. This is an essential and critical starting point.

Second in line in the crusade against corruption is certainly the media which has been consistent in its anti-corruption messages and analysis.

The other key anti-corruption voices have included the Opposition, civil society, and a number of foreign offices with well intentioned interests in Kenya.

… I judge that the D-Day on the fight against corruption occurred when the list of shame was published with names of senior public servants suspected to have engaged in corruption. … If this process succeeds and achieves these standards, then Kenya will have moved a major step ahead in the war against corruption. If the process is derailed by whatever causes, then I am afraid we shall have lost momentum on the war on corruption. … [Another] recently launched system with similar detective capacity is the e-procurement system that can document the audit trails of all public procurement.

It is evident from recent events that Kenya can and should keep on the path towards a country with reduced corruption. We need to appreciate the efforts of all the players in this anti-corruption crusade.

As a general matter, AAF concurs with Mr. Wachira’s comments and the tenor of this article: it takes  more than just one element to create an effective anti-corruption system that both prevents as well as detects and punishes violations swiftly.

As he points out, this system may well start “from the top,” as is the case with the Kenyan presidents recent pronouncements on his unwillingness to tolerate corrupt government dealings.  The question is, however, what happens if society cannot rely on its top officials to provide such guidance, nor rely on even lip-service paid to the anti-graft movement.  An example is South Africa, our next case study, where the recent worldwide FIFA corruption scandal resonated with particular momentum, given the country’s past hosting of the FIFA soccer World Cup.  As several news outlets have reported, the South African government (at its highest levels, including the Ministry of Sports and Recreation), has tried to keep details of the FIFA bribery allegations from the country’s public, specifically by instructing ex-Cup local organising committee (LOC) members not to give interviews and to hand over any evidence to the Ministry only.  Other corporate fraud scandals (ex.: Nedbank) continue to embroil the country, whose economy (and currency) appear on a perpetually and dangerously downward-sloping curve.

Example ‘B’: South Africa

In our FIFA article, we pointed out with significant concern that “the South African Government’s, particularly under the auspices of President Zuma, dismantling of key enforcement agencies, especially the National Prosecution Services … has effectively prevented proactive enforcement of corrupt activities.”

Nonetheless, in the South African daily Times, Babalo Ndenze recently summarised the “most successful year yet” for the country’s Asset Forfeiture Unit — some of the few corruption-busters that have remained intact since a sweeping and politically-driven “overhaul” of the anti-graft investigative units in Africa’s southernmost Republic has caused the effective number, quality and fervour of public fraud prosecutors to dwindle to dangerous lows.  As we observed in a prior article on the perception of corruption in the country causing less foreign direct investment, “a new report released by the Centre for Corporate Governance in Africa at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, concludes that corruption remains one of the major obstacles to Africa’s economic rise: among the Southern African Development Community (SADC), South Africa suffers particularly from the perception of a high prevalence of bribery and corruption in the granting of South African government contracts and procurement tenders …”

Nonetheless, the Times chimes in with healthy enforcement statistics, and we will conclude today’s instalment with a recitation of those numbers:

The crime-fighting unit recover R2.8-billion [that’s almost $250 million] during the 2014-2015 financial year. Its biggest haul involved freezing contracts worth R1.8-billion issued by the Gauteng health department.

The unit also froze orders worth R4.2-million against a company that was awarded a tender to transport mourners to Nelson Mandela commemoration events in the Eastern Cape. The tender process was rigged.

A number of Buffalo City Municipality officials, including former mayor Zukiswa Ncitha, were implicated in the case.

The unit also recovered a farm worth R1.5-million in the Free State that had been illicitly obtained by an SA Police Service detective.

The unit froze and recovered R59-million in various bank accounts of people who defrauded the Social Housing Regulatory Authority in East London . The unit also recovered some of the authority’s R4.8-million that had disappeared for “personal purposes”.

It was assisted by the National Treasury to recover more thanR61-million that was swindled from the authority’s coffers.

A list of the unit’s major recoveries appears in the National Prosecuting Authority’s latest annual report, which has been tabled in parliament.

According to legislation, the seized money goes into the central revenue fund.

“The unit achieved its best-ever performance, obtaining freezing orders to the value of R2.8-billion, significantly exceeding the annual target of R755-million by 265% and last year’s performance by 293%,” the report read.

The unit’s head, Willie Hofmeyr, said this success can be attributed to working closely with other crime-fighting institutions such as the Hawks, the police and the Special Investigating Unit.

“We’ve had a few good years in the past but this was probably our best,” he said.

“It’s true that working together has made a difference

The necessity of strong regional regulatory oversight on infrastructure projects in Africa

Africa-infrastructure

The necessity of strong regional regulatory oversight on infrastructure projects in Africa

RogerBy Roger Tafotie

Dr. Tafotie is a Pr1merio advisor with a legal & business focus on both African and European markets. A member of the Luxembourg Bar, he is also a lecturer in law at the University of Luxembourg. His focus areas include project finance/public private partnerships, banking & finance, and corporate law.

In his latest paper on essential infrastructure development on the African continent, Roger not only embarks on a mission to clarify the valuable role of public-private partnerships (“PPPs”) — he also reminds us that, beyond “well-drafted projects contracts,” there must also be an “effective and efficient African regional regulatory oversight system, with clear roles and lines of command, that is able to protect against ills such as self-dealings and anti-competitive alliances or monopolies,” including “the monitoring of the tendering process against corruption.”

Enhanced competition and an effective oversight system to weed out corruption in the bidding (and execution) process not only protects the local, national or regional governmental issuer of the infrastructure PPP. In order to keep all stakeholders, including global financing institutions or other private lenders, in a position of “acceptable risk,” a well-supervised competitive process is essential to tender selection and project execution.

You can find the full paper here, exclusively on AAF and on AAT.

Halliburton to Goodyear: FCPA risks and due diligence in foreign acquisitions

Averting their eyes from Africa: Goodyear’s $16m Kenya/Angola settlement highlights risk of insufficient due diligence

Andreas Stargard.

“Foreign acquirers must understand and — likely — challenge the status quo of their new African subsidiaries”

When acquiring an African company, nothing is “business as usual.”  Neither pre- nor post-acquisition can foreign parent corporations simply avert their eyes and let their newly acquired business units be run as before.  The status quo must be understood and – likely – challenged.

Case in point: Goodyear’s Africa troubles (plural, because they originate in both Kenya and Angola).

In its February 24, 2015 news release, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced Goodyear’s disgorgement of over $14 million in profits, plus over $2 million in prejudgment interest, as well as reporting, remediation and compliance obligations for a period of 3 years: “Public companies must keep accurate accounting records, and Goodyear’s lax compliance controls enabled a routine of corrupt payments by African subsidiaries that were hidden in their books,” said Scott W. Friestad, Associate Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division.”

The release details the following alleged violations of the two African subsidiaries, acquired by the Ohio-based Goodyear Tire Company incrementally between 2002 (minority shareholding) and 2006 (when it became a majority owner):

[The Kenyan subsidiary] bribed employees of the Kenya Ports Authority, Armed Forces Canteen Organization, Nzoia Sugar Company, Kenyan Air Force, Ministry of Roads, Ministry of State for Defense, East African Portland Cement Co., and Telkom Kenya Ltd.

Goodyear’s subsidiary in Angola bribed employees of the Catoca Diamond Mine, which is owned by a consortium of mining interests including Angola’s national mining company Endiama E.P. and Russian mining company ALROSA.  Others bribed in Angola worked at UNICARGAS, Engevia Construction and Public Works, Electric Company of Luanda, National Service of Alfadega, and Sonangol.

In the accompanying Order, the SEC alleges that:

1. … From 2007 through 2011, Goodyear subsidiaries in Kenya (Treadsetters Tyres Ltd., or “Treadsetters”) and Angola (Trentyre Angola Lda., or “Trentyre”) routinely paid bribes to employees of government-owned entities and private companies to obtain tire sales. These same subsidiaries also paid bribes to police, tax, and other local authorities. In all, between 2007 and 2011, Goodyear subsidiaries in Kenya and Angola made over $3.2 million in illicit payments.

2. All of these bribery payments were falsely recorded as legitimate business expenses in the books and records of these subsidiaries which were consolidated into Goodyear’s books and records. Goodyear did not prevent or detect these improper payments because it failed to implement adequate FCPA compliance controls at its subsidiaries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Failing to conduct proper due diligence on an African target company is risky at best.  Leaving its day-to-day operations thereafter unchecked and unaltered, however, is the downright equivalent of requesting a cease & desist order (or worse yet, a judgment) from an American or European enforcement agency or court.  As the SEC noted, “the day-to-day operations of Treadsetters continued to be run by Treadsetters’ founders and the local general manager.” (Id. at para. 7).  Goodyear notably “failed to implement adequate FCPA compliance training and controls after the acquisition.”

Luckily for Goodyear (which has since then shed its Kenyan business and is in the process of selling its Angolan interests), the Department of Justice decided not to pursue parallel criminal charges for the same conduct, and so the SEC went ahead solo, culminating in the Order quoted above.

Would Goodyear have benefited from Halliburton?

Generally speaking, a buyer acquires the target’s liabilities — neither the FCPA nor the antitrust laws provide a unique exception to this rule.  A quick look at General Electric’s experience (GE agreed to pay $23.4 million to settle the SEC’s charges, including against two subsidiaries for which GE assumed liability upon acquiring) and eLandia ($2 million payment for its subsidiary Latin Node’s bribery scheme pre-acquisition) amply prove the point.

That said, under certain circumstances where proper and fulsome due diligence is “severely compromised,” a future corporate parent may insulate itself from FCPA liability: flash-back to June of 2008, when the Department of Justice issued valuable FCPA guidance in the form of its Halliburton “opinion procedure release”: In it, the DOJ discussed how it would treat the liability of an acquiring company whose pre-closing investigative ability to conduct full-scale due diligence is, by (foreign) statute or other circumstance, insufficient to guarantee discovery of any existant FCPA liabilities of the acquisition target.  In particular, the DOJ said:

[A]n acquiring company may be held liable as a matter of law for any unlawful payments made by an acquired company or its personnel after the date of acquisition. … Under the
circumstances […] there is insufficient time and inadequate access to complete
appropriate pre-acquisition FCPA due diligence and remediation. As represented by Halliburton, under the application of the U.K. Takeover Code, it has no legal ability to require a specified level of due diligence or to insist upon remedial measures until after the acquisition is completed. As a result, Halliburton’s ability to take action to prevent unlawful payments by Target or its personnel during the period immediately after the closing has been severely compromised. Assuming that Halliburton, in the judgment of the Department, satisfactorily implements the post-closing plan and remediation detailed above, and assuming that no Halliburton employee or agent knowingly plays a role in approving or making any improper payment by Target, the Department does not presently intend to take any enforcement action against Halliburton for any postacquisition violations of the antibribery provisions of the FCPA committed by Target during the 180-day period after closing provided that Halliburton: (a) discloses suchconduct to the Department within 180 days of closing; (b) stops and remediates such conduct within 180 days of closing, or, if the alleged conduct, in the judgment of the Department, cannot be fully investigated within the 180-day period, stops and remediates such conduct as soon as it can reasonably be stopped; and (c) completes its due diligenceand remediation, including completing its investigation of any issues that are identifiedwithin the 180-day period, by no later than one year from the date of closing.

Setting aside the difference in enforcement agencies (SEC in Goodyear vs. DOJ in Halliburton), had Goodyear made an effort similar to that of Halliburton (which, of course, is no stranger to significant FCPA enforcement actions itself (see also here and here on the Bonny Island debacle), despite having sought and obtained this favorable opinion back in 2008), it would have stood to benefit from similar lenience — but only insofar as it concerned initial determination, through due diligence (ideally pre-acquisition, but potentially still within a 180-day window), whether or not its African acquisition posed a corruption risk back in the U.S.

In light of the ongoing nature of the FCPA-violative conduct post-acquisition, however, there appears to be little effort made on behalf of the parent entity to uncover (or, for that matter, halt) the offending actions in Goodyear.  In this regard, notably excluded from the DOJ’s relatively lenient position is, of course, similarly ongoing conduct.  The Department expressly reserves the right to enforce:

(a) any FCPA violations committed by Target during the 180-day period that are not disclosed to the Department during this same time period; (b) any FCPA violations committed by Target at any time where any Halliburton employee or agent knowingly participates in the unlawful conduct; and (c) any issues identified within the 180-day period which are not investigated to conclusion within one year of closing. In no event does this Opinion Release provide any protection for any conduct which occurs after the 180-day period.

Nigeria & South Africa: Two tales of anti-corruption enforcement

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Nuhu Ribadu & the Scorpions: Setbacks and potential promises for anti-corruption efforts in Africa’s two largest economies

Two recent articles point to a convergence of missing or diminishing anti-corruption efforts in both South Africa and Nigeria.

For one, Nigeria’s former head of anti corruption Mr. Ribadu (whose high-provile 2012 report revealed that the country had lost tens of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues due to illicit dealings between multinational oil companies and government officials) defected from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) to President Goodluck Jonathan’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).  This is a welcome development for President Jonathan, whose party has been plagued by allegations of bribery and corruption scandals.  It remains to be seen whether Mr. Ribadu’s move beckons a more docile and timid anti-corruption approach in Africa’s largest economy (by GDP), or whether – perhaps less likely so – he will remain the strong voice of the anti-bribery advocate that he has proven to be in his prior tenure.

In the Mail & Guardian piece, “Concourt justices: Where are SA’s corruption busters?”, Phillip De Wet writes about a similar state of lack of enforcement in South Africa: “Years after disbanding the Scorpions, courts are still grappling with the consequences. And the highest court seems unamused at the state of play,” says Mr. De Wet, writing about the hearing of the Constitutional Court on Tuesday in a case that brings to the fore the keenly felt absence of  the dedicated investigative unit tasked with ridding South Africa of corruption?  A key question is whether the police unit of the Hawks are capable of taking on the role that the felled Scorpion unit used to play.

“We don’t have a dedicated corruption-fighting unit,” chief justice Dikgang Moseneke declared.  The Hawks are seen as potentially weaker and less independent than the former Scorpions, as they remain within the police forces from an administrative standpoint: Advocate David Unterhalter (a friend of AAF and AfricanAntitrust.com) told the court on behalf of an amicus curiae, the Suzman Foundation, that the police minister has “a very very deep power to suspend without pay and then to dismiss” the head of the Hawks.  Judgment was reserved for now.

As to Mr. Ribadu’s parallel defection several thousand kilometers to the north, the World Bulletin writes as follows:

Former president Olusegun Obasanjo hired Ribadu as chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from April 2003 to December 2007 and he earned a reputation for going after seeming untouchables in the fight against rampant corruption, even at risk to his own life…. “In terms of electorate Ribadu hasn’t got much influence, but he was seen as clean and anti-corruption”, which had benefited the opposition’s fight on an anti-graft ticket, Lagos-based consultancy 46-Parallels partner Kayode Akindele said.