Cynicism is corruption’s bedmate

Business Report Opinion & Analysis

March 29, 2004

Corporate cynicism walks hand-in-hand with corruption.

Acres International, the Canadian engineering company convicted of bribing the former chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, seems to be intent on wriggling out of paying a R13 million fine imposed on it for its crimes in the mountain kingdom.

The company’s disingenuous bid to pay the fine in instalments compounds its offence, and its tardiness in paying up is shaming and shows contempt for a legal process that has won international acclaim.

Lesotho has been praised for its courage and determination in bringing to book not only its corrupt officials but also the unscrupulous multinationals that prey on developing countries.

Its campaign is all the more praiseworthy because the impoverished country has spent millions it could ill afford. Despite promises of support, the World Bank has not delivered.

It is encouraging that this week South Africa, through water affairs minister Ronnie Kasrils, has begun to look for ways to help Lesotho in its David-and-Goliath battle.

In this case, our neighbour’s fight is very much our fight too, for corporate corruption knows no borders.

Acres International boasts annual revenue of R1 billion. It would be interesting to discover how much of that has come from bribing its way into contracts.

There is only one way for Acres and other companies caught for corruption to redeem themselves.

Talk is cheap and even the finest words mean nothing unless they are backed up with action.

Acres must pay up and commit itself to decent corporate practices. 

Categories: Africa, Lesotho, Odious Debts

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