UK bans US-based consultancy over corruption scandal in South Africa

Supporters of President Jacob Zuma and loyalists of the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) sing “Wenzeni uZuma”, a song telling Zuma’s achievement, as South Africa President (unseen) arrives to address delegates at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban, on July 24, 2022. – The 9th annual Kwazlu-Natal Provincial conference elected pro Zuma leaders, which is seen as a setback for South African President. Protesters sang and chanted slogans calling for the resignation of the South African President who is due to address the 1,700 delegates at the closing of the conference. (Photo by Rajesh JANTILAL / AFP)

Britain said Wednesday it was banning US-based consultancy giant Bain & Company for three years from UK government contracts after it became enmeshed in a huge corruption scandal in South Africa.

Bain is being barred for competing in bids for central government consultancy work for three years, effective from January 4 this year, a spokesman for the cabinet office told AFP.

“After reviewing Bain’s role in alleged state capture and corruption by the former government of South Africa, taking account of the evidence and conclusions of the South African government commission, the minister for government efficiency considered Bain to be guilty of grave professional misconduct,” it said.

The punishment stems from a four-year probe into graft under South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma.

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The investigation, led by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, determined that billions of dollars in publicly owned assets were systematically siphoned off — a process known locally as “state capture”.

Bain was hired by the South African government in 2015-16 on a contract to overhaul the country’s revenue service.

The initial contract was to last for six weeks and was worth around $150,000.

But eventually it ran for more than two years, at a cost of more than $9 million, and extended into many other sectors.

The Zondo report said that Bain worked in “collusion” with Zuma, who it said was directly involved in a scheme to undermine the tax service.

The British government said it had taken the decision “in light of Bain’s responsibility as a global brand for its South Africa division and the company’s failure to clarify the facts and circumstances of its involvement”.

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“The UK strongly supports the South African authorities’ ongoing efforts to tackle corruption and promote accountability,” it added.

According to the Financial Times, which reported on the ban late Tuesday, Bain had had a total of 63 million pounds (around $75 million) in British government contracts since 2018, two-thirds of which were based on Brexit-related work.

Bain & Company had not responded to an AFP request for comment as of midday Wednesday. It has previously denied that it intentionally or wilfully harmed the tax agency or supported state capture.

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