The world’s perception of South Africa in regard to business integrity and corruption is deteriorating at an alarming rate, with the immediate and unfortunate consequence being the imminent driving away of foreign investors, according to Consulting Engineers SA (Cesa) president Naren Bhojaram.
Corruption was paralysing the country and eating away at the moral fibre of society, but President Jacob Zuma could not be blamed for corruption in the country, Bhojaram said at Cesa’s annual media breakfast this week.
“His [Zuma’s] job is to create a platform for business to operate in an ethical, responsible and sustainable way and for him and his government to lead by example,” Bhojaram said. “We cannot escape our collective responsibility. Therefore, let us deal with it.”
Bhojaram said the “horror story” for him was that in terms of Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, which looked at public sector and business integrity issues and transparency in the broad sense, South Africa dropped to 69 last year from 64 in 2011 out of 176 countries, and to number nine in Africa from number three in the past three years.
“We have dropped to number nine in a period of three years from number three. That simply means the world looks upon South Africa as a country that condones bad practices and unethical behaviour.”
Bhojaram said strong action was required from all stakeholders to curb the scourge of white-collar crime and the government needed to take the lead in this.
He said Cesa was pleased that it had not had a complaint against any member who was found after investigation to be guilty of blatant unethical behaviour or corruption, but he stressed the need to “report incidents and make use of whistle-blower lines and name and shame”.
As previously reported by Business Report, Bhojaram confirmed Cesa was in the process of setting up a war chest to fight corruption and unethical behaviour.
“We have gone to our members and said we need to tackle corruption head-on. We are putting up the fees of members and members are happy to pay extra fees.
“We are going to challenge the local authorities and will challenge our members and others if there is a case that needs to be investigated and people need to be brought to book. We are setting up this war chest to make this happen,” he said.
He said the appointment of the “right leaders” was paramount to doing clean business.
He stressed that leaders, be they business, political or spiritual leaders, must be selected on the basis of their ethical balance, with qualities such as intelligence quotient, emotional intelligence and their physical quotient a given. “A sustainable future depends on our ability to put leaders in place with the highest ethical balance.”