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Ex Bain & Company staffer tells state capture inquiry that firm was not truthful at Nugent commission

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Mar 23, 2021


Johannesburg – The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Tuesday heard how a global consulting firm that had a contract with the SA Revenue Services (Sars) allegedly failed to account about its state of affairs before the Nugent Commission that was chaired by retired Justice Robert Nugent.

In his testimony on Tuesday, Athol Williams, a former partner at the Boston-based firm known as Bain & Company told the commission that the company was not truthful to South Africa when it was under the spotlight of the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance.

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The company was employed by former Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane to establish a restructuring model of the Revenue Service Division at a cost of R164 million.

During the Nugent commission proceedings, it emerged the company’s South African executive and former managing partner Vittorio Massone allegedly had close ties with former Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane before the contract was awarded in 2015 with the commission also hearing that they may have been an "irregular" procurement process.

In his testimony, Williams maintained that he was not given access to the interviews and vital notes that concerned testimony that had to be presented at the Tax Administration and Governance Inquiry adding that he had also received communication from judge Nugent, who at the time, allegedly complained that Bain and Co was evasive.

According to Williams, he joined Bain as a partner in September 2009 in Joburg after the company approached him with an offer as they were looking to re-establish South African operations.

According to Williams, during the early part of 2010, Massone arrived in Joburg as the office head or managing partner.

He was previously a partner with Bain in Italy.

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According to Williams, Massone's arrival at the Bain SA headquarters was publicly announced in March 2010 through print media and television appearances.

Massone, he said, soon after his arrival clashed with the members of the small leadership team, which consisted of him (Williams) and his colleagues, Tiaan Moolman and Susan Smith.

Williams detailed that others at the time expressed grave concern about Massone's ethics and his suitability to lead the business in South Africa.

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"When Massone arrived, we were concerned at the way he interacted with clients, he was not an honest person.

“We reported his behaviour at the London office.

“Bain & Company endorsed Massone's behaviour," said Williams.

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He also told of how the restructuring process was mired in controversy including Bain’s work alongside Ambrorite – a communications, events, project management and strategic.

Stakeholder management specialist company.

According to Williams, there were concerns around the involvement of Ambrorite and its legitimacy including matters of tax clearance certificates.

Williams made reference to Project Phoenix which involved Bain officials holding a meeting with former president Jacob Zuma and Moyane in Cape Town.

He said in addition to facilitating engagements with Zuma and other government officials, the relationship between Bain and Ambrobrite gave rise to activities unusual for a management consulting firm.

Evidence leader, advocate Alistair Franklin asked Williams to respond to the evidence that Massone presented before the Nugent commission.

"I was shocked to hear Massone's evidence chair given my concern in 2010 and already hearing allegations against Bain… I had felt that my worst fear was coming true.

“Upon hearing his testimony, I wrote an email to his boss to express disappointment.

“I did offer my support to the company since I was loyal to deal with the crisis," said Williams.

He said at the time, he thought the right thing was for the company to offer an apology and have a plan of restitution.

“I wanted to be clear to the company (that) if I'm going to help them it was gonna be in the interest of the country, the company and myself," said Williams.

But advocate Alfred Cockrell SC who represented Bain insisted that his client wanted to publicise its affidavit in response to Williams’s testimony.

However, it was put on the record that the commission's rules did not allow the publication of affidavits prior to the testimony of the individuals coming to the commission.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo asked if it would be appropriate if he made his ruling regarding the application on Wednesday.

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