June 28, 2001
The World Bank signalled yesterday its strong determination to weed out corrupt practices among firms bidding for its lucrative contracts.
Commenting in the wake of a high-profile corruption case in Lesotho, Happy Nkhoma, the bank’s spokesman in SA, said the bank would black- list companies that were found guilty of corruption in the trial. Also, the bank stood ready to provide financial assistance to the Maseru authorities in prosecuting wrongdoers, should it need funds to proceed with the estimated $10m case.
The multimillion-rand Lesotho Highlands Water Project bribery trial involved more than 20 international companies and individuals initially. However, a lawyer acting for Masupha Sole, the former CEO of the R10bn international project to bring water to Gauteng from Lesotho, said only his client had been charged with wrongdoing. The Lesotho government which has prosecutor Guido Penzhorn SC from SA acting for it has promised to act against the high-profile companies later.
Sole is charged with taking R12m in bribes over a 10-year period ending in 1998, charges of fraud and one of perjury.
The Lesotho authorities were not available yesterday to comment on the effect the allegations have had on the country’s image abroad as Lesotho relies heavily on donors. However, Nkhoma said while he did not want to prejudge the case, it was a test case for Africa. “We have only heard about corruption in other African countries, but we have not seen any action,” he said. Lesotho, he said, was showing it was willing to confront “anything like corruption head-on”.
The case was adjourned until August, when the state is expected to call more witnesses.