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I was groomed for corruption – Agrizzi

Daily prayer meetings and bags of cash: a day in the life of a Bosasa executive.

The day would start with a prayer meeting. Then the bags of cash would be arranged for delivery to the army of corrupt officials and politicians whose patronage built Bosasa into a multi-billion-rand-a-year enterprise.

This was a typical day at Bosasa, according to Angelo Agrizzi, former chief operating officer at Bosasa turned whistleblower. 

“No-one wakes up and decides to create a corrupt organisation,” he told Moneyweb on the sidelines of the CFO Talks anti-corruption debate in Sandton on Wednesday. “There is a grooming process that takes place.”

It starts with small gifts, then larger ones, until you are captured by the corrupt organisation and become part of the conspiracy of silence. “Then I got handed a envelope with R20 000 in cash and was told I should take my family to Mauritius for the weekend. The gifts keep getting bigger.

“Then one day you are asked to drop off a parcel for someone, and God help you if you don’t. You are told ‘if we go down, we’re all going down together’. There is a very clear threat in this, which is how they buy your silence.”

Agrizzi says he has received several death threats, as well as an offer of R60 million to keep his silence.

Capturing the captors

Earlier this year he told the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture how bags of cash had been delivered to key correctional services personnel, including former correctional services commissioner Linda Mti and the department’s chief financial officer (CFO) Patrick Gillingham.

Agrizzi, Mti, Gillingham, and former Bosasa CFO Andries van Tonder were arrested by the Hawks in February on charges of corruption, money laundering and fraud. Numerous high profile ANC figures have been named by Agrizzi as recipients of bribes from Bosasa (later renamed African Global).

Speaking at the debate, Agrizzi said the system of graft at Bosasa was so endemic that staff turnover (out of 6 800 employees) was just 0.02%. Corruption was the business model, despite the existence of an ethics and governance committee that met once every four months. The 15-strong committee, populated by professors and PhDs, but was powerless against Bosasa’s “narcissistic leader” Gavin Watson, who surrounded himself with people who would do his bidding.

Watson boasted that Bosasa had a “flat organisational structure” but this was a euphemism for no structure at all. The company burned through 12 chartered accountants in two years, some of them because they could no longer stand being errand boys in a corrupt organisation.

Agrizzi bemoaned the lack of whistleblower protection in SA. “Protections for whistleblowers are non-existent. In fact, you get arrested [for blowing the whistle],” he said.

“How do you go about challenging CEOs who have captured the government?”

Under former president Thabo Mbeki, corruption was at “manageable proportions”, said Corruption Watch head David Lewis. “Under [former president Jacob] Zuma it consumed the state. The Arms deal under Mbeki was a serious episode, but it was discreet. The state capture project [under Zuma] involved the capture of the key decision-making structures of the state. State-owned enterprises [SOEs] were targeted because that’s where the money is.

”You had this dream team of Brian Molefe and Anoj Singh who came from Transnet to Eskom. The Zuma-Gupta syndicate was the best of the lot. Zuma had influence over the boards of SOEs and didn’t need to do anything else.”

Not enough to have captured No 1

But Zuma was only useful to the Guptas so long as he was president of the country, which meant the ANC itself had to be captured. This involved infiltrating local, provincial and national structures with bribable agents of corruption.

It’s time to prosecute individuals involved in corruption and send them to jail, said Lewis. The recent arrest of eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede on charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering relating to a R208 million tender within the Durban Solid Waste unit was a good start.

Corruption is the CFO’s fault, added Agrizzi: “You are the ones who control the purse strings.”

Nicolaas van Wyk, CEO of the SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba), said corruption would be slowed if there was a change in the Companies Act, or a dedicated CFO Act spelling out the duties and obligations of the CFO.

Ethics training, legal counsel needed

“CFOs should be obliged to attend an ethics course once a year, and must make a declaration any time [they become] aware of an attempted or successful bribe or corrupt transaction. Furthermore, if the CFO resigns, [they] must state the reasons for resigning. This is similar to the obligation placed on an accounting officer in the Close Corporations Act.”

The question before the delegates was: What role did CFOs play in SA’s corruption scandals and what needs to be done to stop it?

“The King Report [on corporate governance] gives us guidance, and the Institute of Directors trains people on the expected role of board members,” said Sasha Monyamane, professor of governance and ethics at the University of SA (Unisa). “Every organisation proclaiming themselves as having good governance should send their people for training.”

Professional bodies need to provide more than just advice to finance executives reaching out for help in corrupt organisations. They need legal counsel and protection, said Van Wyk.

Dr Kelvin Kemm, suspended chairman of the Nuclear Energy Company of SA (Necsa), says there are far too many political appointees in state-owned companies (SOCs).

“Far too often we see ministers running the departments and SOCs. What’s the point of having a board if the minister has the power to override them?”

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If you have to ask whether something is ethical and legal then you have answered your question. That was what we were taught decades before King commissions and governance boards.

The obvious crass crimes involving bags of cash aside, IMO we have as big problem within what the new kids have to cram for their exams. The accounting policy and disclosure rules have thrown the old pillar of substance over form out the window. There is now more money in advising boards and clients how to use whatever part of IFRS is at hand to achieve whichever objective this board or that client has. Bboost HEPS, reduce taxable income, bring forward earnings, delay earnings, hide a potential restatement in a liability, etc etc etc. Time to get real again.

Also time that we have the depth and consequence of the sign-off responsibilities of US company officers. You sign, you get caught, you go to jail

I agree that if you have to ask, then you effectively answer your question. What is not catered for with that approach is the people who would not even think of asking the question in the first place – Dunning-Kruger types.

“CFOs should be obliged to attend an ethics course once a year, and must make a declaration any time [they become] aware of an attempted or successful bribe or corrupt transaction. Furthermore, if the CFO resigns, [they] must state the reasons for resigning. This is similar to the obligation placed on an accounting officer in the Close Corporations Act.” – Nice in theory, yet absolutely worthless in this case and probably many others. Watson himself held the purse strings and controlled the bribe cash.

Ethics are inate and learnt from birth at home. Way before varsity.

You could say that the Afican continent has been groomed for corruption through the tribal way.

Notice the lack of prosecution. Even for tax evasion by the recipients of “gifts”. If SARS does not look into this you will know then it’s just business as usual for the new government. And Squirrel will be outed as just another zoomer.

It is a relatively small number of people who let themselves be guided by ethics and morality. The ratio is similar to the number of people who pay traffic fines, stop at orange lights, give advantage to other drivers, stop for pedestrians, keep to the speed limit and treat others with courtesy and respect.

The rest of society has to be “motivated” to act responsibly, ethically and morally. This motivating force is the criminal justice system along with the police force. The rule of law forms the basis of an economy and is one of the pillars of democracy and freedom. The law itself is based on the right of individuals to own property and the right to protect that property.

The biggest catastrophe that can hit any nation is when the law itself is corrupted to legalize plunder. Then, all the forces of the state support the violation property instead of protecting it. Once the law itself is unjust, criminal, unethical and immoral, it automatically destroys all those factors in the rest of society also.

In South Africa, our legislator, motivated by its perception of justice, ethics and morality violated property rights in a multitude of ways. BEE, EE, Mining charter, nationalization of mineral rights, high progressive taxes, redistributive municipal rates and taxes, Security of tenure laws, racial quotas in all spheres of society, the protection of militant unions, stringent labour laws etc are a serious infringement on property rights.

The governing party, with the law as its weapon, destroyed ethics and morality in this country. Now we live in a gangster state that is governed only by the laws of nature. Only the most adaptable will survive.

Yep, as they say: 20% of people will always be dishonest, 20% will always be honest, and the other 60% will be dishonest if you give them a chance. But, I suppose like 95% of all statistics that was probably also made up on the spot … 🙂

At this rate, Agrizzi will be soon a Governance and Ethics professor at Tukkies, UJ, Stellenbosch, etc.

Ugh! What a repulsive crowd these Watsons are! Remember a few years ago, there was a photo of the crowd at Loftus giving Puke Watson the bird, after he wanted to vomit on the Springbok jersey? Then there is his ANC-creeping dad who’s in trouble for corruption at the EP rugby union. As somebody once said: follow the money. If mhlungus like the odious Watsons are in deep with the ANC, with a brown ring around their necks, look for the BEE deal to be had.

In the early 80’s I worked for the PFP MP for Walmer in PE. Cheeky was often at his front door wanting help. he was always in trouble playing rugby in the townships.
My boss mentioned to me that he was not a nice chap to put it mildly.

This article appears to be part of a PR campaign by Mr Agrizzi to paint himself as the “innocent victim” in the Bosasa affair. This is most ingenious, since he was instrumental in determining how much of the corruption at Bosasa operated. He is in the habit of using the truth most sparingly.

Gee, what remarkable insight. You must be a psychology graduate!!!

Yep, Agrizzi is a master of exaggeration. According to his evidence at the Zondo commission he was the one who determined the “chickens” required and passed it on to his minions to carry out his instructions. He was also the one with the required criminal contacts who made it possible to launder money. Without his criminal contacts it would not have been possible.

He now tries to act the innocent angel … the best is the reason given by the CFO as to why he decided to spill the beans, he was pushed sideways to Rodkor, (the Siberia of Bosasa?) and he felt demeaned. Not because of an attack of conscience.

The definition of income is very clear in the Income Tax Act. I believe that the authorities will have no problems in prosecuting the various role players that received any bribes. However, I firmly believe that the government officials and ministers are just going to spend huge amounts of taxpayers money in defending themselves and the courts and legal professionals will be busy for quite a lengthy period until the matter dies a natural death. The grip that the ANC has on SARS is still very real and very strong. Whoever thought that matters will improve, we’ll talk in a year’s time.

It is more than incredible that Gavin Watson is still walking free and not in jail – not to mention the dozens of government officials who must obviously be known to Agrizzi!

Once again, if Dear Cyril wants ANY international credibility, these people MUST be arrested ASAP.

he will stay free, he has never signed anything. His name appears no where.

They Fed the ANC, What could go wrong
Proudly South African’s

They had a prayer meeting at the start of the day. That is nice!

That is the statement that explains it all. As Hansie said – “It was the devil that made me do it”. Be suspicious(very suspicious) about any business that espouses religion as a guiding set of principles.

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