Acres International replies

Oskar T. Sigvaldson
National Post
August 27, 1999

Oskar T. Sigvaldson

Re: Foreign Aid Corruption Case Puts Canada on Trial, Aug. 20.

We feel compelled to correct the record as it has been characterized in Patricia Adams’ commentary. Ms. Adams refers to Acres International and suggests that monies were improperly paid by our company to an official with the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA). This is simply not the case. We did not make any such payments, and we have no knowledge of any improper transactions.

We wish to state emphatically that we have an unblemished 75-year record of engineering consulting in international markets. Not once in our long history have we been confronted with allegations of wrongdoing. We have a strict code of ethical business conduct for all our employees, which has been in written form since 1978, and every officer and manager renews that commitment, in writing, every year.

What we find particularly disturbing is the fact the article is littered with innuendo that virtually convicts our company in this matter, without the slightest evidence of wrongdoing.

We too were dismayed to learn, by way of newspaper stories, of allegations of improper conduct concerning Mr. Masupha Sole, the former chief executive of LHDA.

It is important to note that we have heard nothing from law enforcement authorities in Lesotho or any other ju- risdiction about this matter, and we have no knowledge of any payment to Mr. Sole or any other LHDA official. It is also important to note that the only formal allegations of improper conduct in this matter are against Mr. Sole. No charges of any kind have been laid against Acres International.

Still, we are taking this matter very seriously. We launched an internal review the moment we learned of it, and nothing has been found to indicate that any officer or employee of our company was involved in any form of improper activity. In addition, law firms in both Canada and South Africa/Lesotho have been engaged to carry out a detailed review of the situation, with the objective of confirming that all Acres International activities concerning LHDA contracts have been in compliance with the laws of both Canada and Lesotho.

Since 1987, Acres has had contracts with the LHDA for providing advisory services for the planning, engineering and construction of the Lesotho Highlands Development project. These contracts were executed with assistance under separate agreements with Lesotho firms for legal, accounting, insurance representation and other services, as is normal in international consulting and construction activities.

As a leading proponent of anti-corrup- tion initiatives, we fully support efforts by Canada, the World Bank and others to stamp out this problem which is as bad for the cause of international devel- opment as it is for business. However, by its very nature, this challenge must be confronted with due regard for the facts.

Oskar T. Sigvaldson, president, Acres International.

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