BLSA suspends Eskom and Transnet membership: It needs to be consistent

28 Sep 2017

Ujuh Correspondent

Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) has upped the ante in its pledge to fight corruption by suspending Eskom and Transnet with immediate effect.
In a statement issued early today the BLSA said this follows its engagement with the two state-owned enterprises in connection with extensive allegations of corrupt behaviour over a long period.

The move represent a spirited and commendable attempt to fight corruption but BLSA will need to be seen to be consistent in its pledges if it is to earn credibility from the broader public. Mainstream business is historically seen to be soft in dealing with corruption from its peers while it is quick to condemn the public sector. Its worth asking the questions: Has the BLSA looked into the growing list of companies that abuse poor consumers.

Take the case of Edcon. The retailing group, featuring names popular stores like Edgars, Jet, CNA, Red Square and Boardmans, has been found guilty of siphoning moneys from its clients.  This is after the National Credit Agency accused Edcon of illegally imposing club fees to its credit customers. The National Consumer Tribunal upheld the NCA’s charges and ordered Edcon to reverse the the illegal charges in a scandal that runs into billions of rands. Edcon is appealing the tribunal’s judgement.

While it makes sense for anyone to wait for the legal process to be finalised, it also reasonable to argue that: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

BLSA CEO Bonang Mohale said, “South Africans have been rightly disturbed in recent times at the numerous allegations of corrupt behaviour and colossal failures of corporate governance and accountability at both Eskom and Transnet.

This behaviour is entirely at odds with the values of BLSA, captured in our Integrity pledge. Neither of the SOEs were able to give BLSA comfort that they appreciated the seriousness of the issues at hand, or that they had the requisite will and purpose to put their houses in order. This left BLSA with no choice but to suspend their memberships from the organisation. We have to live by our values and will take a zero-tolerance approach to any organisation found in breach.

With regard to Eskom in particular, as the country’s national electricity is a strategic asset and due to multiple governance and operational failures, and a stretched balance sheet, now represents systemic risk to the economy as a whole. Until and unless a non conflicted, experienced and permanent Chairman and Board are appointed – who in turn appoint an experienced and honest executive team – Eskom will loom large over the economy as a threat to stability and economic growth.

There are thousands of honest Eskom employees doing honest and brave work in the face of a seemingly endless pattern of corruption at the top.”

BLSA repeats its earlier appeal that government should proceed expeditiously to set up the judicial investigation into State Capture recommended nearly a year ago by the then Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela. Any employees found to have been in breach of the law should be prosecuted.

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