South African NGO to U.S. Department of Justice: Please Investigate Bain and Company for FCPA Violations

In a Guest Post Monday, Nicole Fritz of South Africa’s Helen Suzman Foundation recounted Boston consulting guru Bain and Company’s role in the massive corruption that infected her country during the reign of its now deposed president Jacob Zuma. Today, she asks the Department of Justice to investigate the Company for “potential breaches of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977.”

As she explains in a letter sent to the head of the FCPA unit, the evidence of violations is “not mere opinion.” Rather, it is drawn

from reports produced by two separate judicial commissions of inquiry, chaired by eminent South African judges: first, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture Report (“State Capture Report”); second, the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance at the South African Revenue Services, colloquially referred to in South Africa as the ‘Nugent Commission Report.’  

The full text of her letter is here.

Guest Post: Will the Biden Administration Help South Africa Escape Capture?

Today’s Guest Post is by Nicole Fritz, a South African public interest lawyer and executive director the Helen Suzman Foundation, a non-partisan think-tank dedicated to promoting liberal, democratic values and human rights in post-apartheid South Africa.

President Biden’s meeting Friday with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa offers a prime opportunity to show the Administration is serious about its new global anticorruption policy. Issued last December, the Administration promises a raft of new initiatives to not only crackdown on corruption at home but to help democratic, reform-minded regimes root out corruption that they cannot do on their own. President Ramaphosa’s government qualifies on all counts. Where it could best use assistance is in unraveling an American company’s role in the efforts of Ramaphosa’s predecessor, Jacob Zuma, to rob the country blind. 

During his nine-year rule, Zuma sought to “capture the state,” to remake South Africa’s fledgling young democratic government into a machine to enrich himself, his family, and his friends. No sooner did he take office in 2009 then he began stacking key government-owned enterprises with cronies and accomplices and purging the public service of professional, independently-minded civil servants.  He was finally forced from office after widespread public protest and coordinated efforts of civil society, those few remaining independent state agencies, and reformers within his own party.

In one of his last desperate bids to quell discontent and remain in office, Zuma established the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector. That Commission has defined the Ramaphosa presidency and the Commission’s several-thousand-page report, completed in June, reveals in astonishing detail just how far Zuma and accomplices extended their reach into the inner-workings of the government in pursuit of personal riches.

An especially damning chapter (here) recounts the role of the Boston management consulting firm Bain & Company in the state capture scheme.

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State Capture: A “How to” Guide

The Democratic Alliance, South African’s principle opposition party, has brought suit seeking a declaration a policy of the African National Congress, the nation’s ruling party, is “inconsistent with the Constitution. . . and the Public Service Act” and hence invalid.

The policy at issue is the ANC’s Cadre Deployment and Development Policy. It sets out how the party selects who will serve in the national, regional, and local levels of South Africa’s government, either in an elected position or as a member of the career service.  The DA alleges that the effect of the policy is to give the ANC “control over the functioning of critical institutions of government. . . blurr[ing] the lines between the ANC and the State and facili[tating] state capture. . . . .” The case’s founding affidavit, equivalent to a complaint in common law jurisdictions, asserts the policy has “inhibited the ability of the State to function effectively in order to promote the rights in the Bill of Rights [and that it] has eroded South Africa’s democratic founding. . . . “

Evidence developed by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, established after ANC leader Jacob Zuma was forced to resign as South African president, is cited throughout the affidavit to show how he and ANC cronies implemented the policy and what its effect has been.* The policy reads as a “how to” manual for capturing the state in a weak or developing democracy. One can only hope this will be how the South Africa’s judges read it as well.

A copy of the policy is here for readers’ information. And more importantly, for those working on prevent state capture elsewhere, to help them thwart similar efforts.

*Earlier today South African Chief Justice Raymond Mnyamezeli Mlungisi “Ray” Zondo, the commission chair, spoke to the failure of the ANC to come to grips with Zuma’s behavior and expressed the fear the state could be re-captured were another Zuma-like figure elected president. Click here to listen to his to warning to South Africans of all parties. Thanks to a South African reader for alerting me to his extraordinary and powerful remarks.

South African Court Slaps Down Attack on Corruption Prosecutor

Early Wednesday a South African judge ruled that former President Jacob Zuma’s attacks on the prosecutor leading the case him were baseless and that Zuma’s trial on corruption charges proceed forthwith. Zuma had claimed prosecutor William Downer’s conduct in pursuing the case was so egregious — running the gamut from the commission of serious crimes, to breaches of ethics, to intimations of racial animus — that the charges against him must be dismissed. Or, at the least, Downer be removed from the case and trial therefore delayed indefinitely while a new prosecutor was found.  

In seeing through Zuma’s desperate attempt to derail the case, and standing up to the still powerful former president, Judge Piet Koen provided a model judges everywhere should follow.  When Zuma raised the unfounded, scurrilous attacks on the prosecutor, Koen ordered they be aired without delay.  Upon sifting through the evidence, he promptly issued a scholarly 109-page opinion finding that not one of the allegations withstood scrutiny and that there was therefore no basis to find Downer was not a fair-minded, independent prosecutor and hence no reason Zuma would not receive a fair trial if Downer remained on the case.

Today’s 61-page decision came in response to that earlier decision. Zuma had requested that the trial be halted while he appealed it.  In again a scholarly and carefully written decision, Koen knocked down the legal arguments offered in support of an appeal while reiterating the absence of any facts showing Downer guilty of misconduct or bias.

Zuma has done his best to pressure the judge into throwing out or delaying the case, with hundreds of supporters crowding into the courthouse and surrounding grounds at his every appearance to let their views be known and with some issuing not so veiled threats against the judge. Koen could have easily caved, finding merit to the claims or a way to put off the trial for months if not years.

That he did not and that he instead set the trial for this April stands in marked contrast to the way attacks on Nigerian, Zambian, and Italian prosecutors have been handled (here, here, and here). Rather than standing up for them, judges, justice ministry officials, and even fellow prosecutors stood aside after the attacks were launched with some collaborating with the attackers. If corrupt officials and their accomplices are to face justice, Judge Koen’s response must become the standard when those prosecuting them come under attack.  

Guest Post: Making the Most of “Windows of Opportunity” for Anticorruption Reform

Today’s guest post is from Florencia Guerzovich, María Soledad Gattoni, and Dave Algoso, a team of independent consultants who jointly authored the Open Society Foundation report on Seeing New Opportunities: How Global Actors Can Better Support Anti-Corruption Reformers.

Ukraine after the Maidan Revolution. Malaysia after the 1MDB Scandal. Brazil after Lava Jato.

In each of these countries—and in many other examples—something triggered a shift in the possibilities for anticorruption reform. Pick your favorite metaphor: the stars align, the winds shift, there’s a fork in the road. We use the term “window of opportunity”: a period when heightened attention to an issue like corruption makes anticorruption reforms more likely. When those windows open, reformers both inside and outside of government try to seize the opportunity to make progress, while contending with forces that aim to maintain the status quo or advance an authoritarian or populist response.

Reformers’ approaches shift in these moments, as do their needs. Though success is not guaranteed, the possibility of reform can increase when global support organizations—including foundations, multilaterals, and NGOs—are better able to meet those needs (while also doing no harm). What do reformers most need during these windows of opportunity? And what can global support organizations do to help meet those needs? With the Open Society Foundations (OSF), we undertook research into those questions, with a primary focus on three case studies:

  • In Guatemala, the “Guatemalan spring” that opened following the announcement of corruption investigations into President Otto Pérez Molina and others in 2015, and the subsequent election of Jimmy Morales;
  • In Slovakia, the mobilizations under the “For a Decent Slovakia” banner and reform efforts that followed the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in 2018;
  • In South Africa, the fight against state capture, which ended Jacob Zuma’s presidency and led to the administration of Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018.

Our findings, presented in a recent OSF report entitled Seeing New Opportunities: How Global Actors Can Better Support Anti-Corruption Reformers, were not always what we’d expected when we started the research. Collectively, our analysis of these case studies and other examples suggests some rethinking in terms of how to best support anticorruption reformers so that they can take maximum advantage of windows of opportunity when they arise. Continue reading

Guest Post: How President Ramaphosa Can Begin Rebuilding Public Trust in South African Government

Today’s guest post is from Larry Kirsch, an economist who is currently the Managing Partner of IMR Health Economics.

The South African government, like many governments around the world, faces daunting challenges due to the combination of the Covid-19 pandemic, economic collapse, and civil unrest. Addressing these problems requires not only decisive action by leaders, but also a sufficient reservoir of public trust. Without such trust, a leader’s call for civic sacrifice and solidarity may not receive the desired response. Unfortunately, South African citizens do not currently have much trust in their government. The leading international survey of trustworthiness, the Edelman Trust Barometer, reported this past January that trust in government among South Africans ranked lowest among the 28 countries surveyed—lower than Russia and Argentina and well below India and China.

Part of this lack of trust is due to chronically stressed economic conditions, as well as extreme structural inequalities. But citizens’ trust has been further undermined by South Africa’s endemic corruption. The corruption of former President Jacob Zuma and his closest cronies (especially the rapacious Gupta family) was well-documented in a a November 2016 report issued by the Office of the Public Protector, then headed by the highly-regarded Thuli Madonsela. That report, entitled The State of Capture, also emphasized the burden of corruption on everyday citizens, documenting, for example, how corruption had contributed to the dysfunctions in vital public services and state owned enterprises.

Will the relatively new government of President Cyril Ramaphosa be able to galvanize trust and obtain the degree of public support needed to deal with the grave threats facing South Africa? On the one hand, President Ramaphosa’s public statements, especially since the outbreak of the coronavirus in South Africa in early March, have been decisive, inclusive, and progressive, particularly in relation to the call for solidarity and the government’s commitment to the apportionment of healthcare, work, food, and other public support on the basis of need. But if President Ramaphosa truly wishes to begin a ”radical” restructuring process based on principles of fairness, social cohesion, and inclusive growth, he will have to deal squarely with the persistence of the culture of corruption, as well as with broader concerns about government openness and public accountability. And his stirring speeches have so far not included much information on how his administration intends to tackle these crucial issues.

One important element of a comprehensive strategy to rebuild the South African government’s integrity—and with it citizen trust in that government—would be for President Ramaphosa to personally back robust implementation of South Africa’s Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). Continue reading

Why Western Accounting and Consulting Firms Are Facilitating Global Corruption, and How To Stop Them

In 2016 the then-president of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, appointed his daughter, Isabel dos Santos, as chairwoman of Sonagol, Angola’s struggling state oil company. Ms. dos Santos quickly recruited the management consulting firms Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and McKinsey and Company to help restructure the company. BCG and McKinsey were not paid directly by Sonangol, however, but rather by a holding company controlled by Ms. dos Santos, Wise Intelligence Services. On paper, Wise Intelligence Services oversaw the consulting firms’ work, but in reality this payment plan enabled Ms. dos Santos to embezzle millions of dollars from the Angolan treasury by overcharging for the consultants’ work and then pocketing the difference. The firms, of course, still received enormous fees, and do not appear to have raised any concerns or objections regarding the highly unusual and suspicious payment arrangements. BCG and McKinsey were not the only Western professional services firms to profit from working with Ms. dos Santos. The accounting firms PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, and Ernst and Young all audited some of the companies owned by Ms. dos Santos and signed off on those companies’ contracts with the Angolan government. In January 2020 Angolan prosecutors announced that they would charge Ms. dos Santos—whose personal wealth is estimated at around $2 billion—with embezzlement of state funds in connection with her business relationships with the Angolan government.

This is far from the first corruption scandal that has implicated the same cohort of large professional services firms. McKinsey has received enormous criticism for its partnership with a company connected to the kleptocratic Gupta family in a $700 million contract with the South African government to resuscitate the country’s failing state-owned power company. Deloitte, Bain, and KPMG have also faced scrutiny for their respective roles in facilitating or otherwise enabling South Africa’s myriad corruption scandals. In Mongolia, McKinsey partnered with a firm owned by a top government official in a contract to reshape the country’s rail system; Mongolian officials ultimately levied corruption charges against three different Mongolians involved in brokering that deal.

These and numerous other scandals illustrate that, far too often, professional services firms have either facilitated, or at best been passively complicit in, the theft of massive sums from state coffers. Why have professional services firms been repeatedly implicated in corruption scandals involving their public sector work? Part of the explanation is simply the inherent risk associated with settings in which developing-country governments, where corruption risks are high to begin with, are handing multi-million dollar contracts to Western firms in an effort to modernize their national infrastructure. But in addition, two structural issues help to explain why accounting and management consulting firms are particularly susceptible to these sorts of problems.

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Will Hosting the UNCAC Meeting Prompt the UAE to Comply with the Convention?

The largest, most important anticorruption conference of the year is underway this week in the United Arab Emirates. Formally known as the eighth session of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the 186 nations that have ratified UNCAC are convening to examine how they can strengthen the fight against corruption.  They have not said why they chose to meet in the UAE, a collection of seven tiny, wealthy monarchies.  Perhaps it is because the Emirates’ location on the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula makes it an easy place to reach from anywhere on the globe. Or perhaps it is because of its top-notch conference facilities and first-rate restaurants and hotels.

Or perhaps something more subtle is at work.

It’s no secret that the UAE and the governments of its seven federated emirates, especially Abu Dhabi and Dubai, have repeatedly flouted their UNCAC obligations.  In researching The Despot’s Guide to Wealth Management, author Jason Sharman was told by staff from the World Bank/UNODC Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, the IMF, and the governments of Switzerland and the United States that “the UAE and particularly Dubai . . . were the leading haven for international corruption funds,” a conclusion Susan Hawley confirmed on this blog, writing that an “increasing numbers of corrupt money trails lead” to the UAE. Mozambique’s Prosecutor General reports that the UAE has stonewalled her request for help in prosecuting the accused in the “hidden debt” scandal, and evidence presented in the recently concluded U.S. trial of one of the accused revealed numerous violations of its anticorruption laws that the UAE has ignored.

Perhaps the other 185 parties to UNCAC hope that holding the meeting in the UAE will persuade its government to finally meet the nation’s obligations as an UNCAC party. Five indicators of whether their stratagem is succeeding: Continue reading

Fighting Police Corruption in Nigeria: An Agenda for Comprehensive Reform

Nigeria has a serious problem with police corruption, at all levels. At the top, senior police officials embezzle staggering sums of public funds. To take just one example, in 2012, the former Inspector General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, faced trial for embezzling 16 million Naira (approximately US$44,422). Meanwhile, at the lower levels, rank-and-file police officers regularly extort money from the public, and crime victims must pay bribes before the police will handle their cases. As a 102-page report by Human Rights Watch documented, police extortion is so institutionalized that Nigerians are more likely to encounter police demanding bribes than enforcing the law. No wonder Nigeria’s police force was ranked as the worst of those included in the 2016 World Internal Security and Police Index, and that Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer survey found that a staggering 69% of Nigerian citizens think that most or all police officers are corrupt.

To combat such a deep-rooted and systemic problem, bold and comprehensive reforms are needed. What would an effective reform agenda look like? Here is an outline of the most important reforms that are needed, drawing on international best practices but also tailored to Nigeria’s particular circumstances: Continue reading

Who Will Get to Prosecute Mozambique’s Former Finance Minister for Corruption?

Manuel Chang must surely feel special these days. He is the first former Minister of Finance in history (or at least that history recorded on the internet) whose is being sought for corruption by two countries. As explained here, Chang was arrested in South Africa December 30 at the request of American authorities who are seeking to extradite him to the United States. Two weeks later, Mozambique filed its own extradition request.  Both countries want to bring him to trial for offenses arising from his alleged corrupt approval of government guarantees for loans taken out by state-owned firms while minster.  The companies have defaulted on the loans, costing the impoverished nation (GNI per capita $1200) as much as $2 billion and throttling the economy.

Which country will get to prosecute Chang will turn on how South African authorities construe recondite provisions in South Africa’s extradition agreements with the United States and Mozambique.  As obscure as the provisions in the two are, how South African authorities choose to interpret them will remain anything but.  For their interpretation will have significant consequences for the global fight against corruption. Continue reading