AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Peter Hain meets Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg in quest to ban Bain & Co from doing business with UK
Bain whistle-blower Athol Williams told UK Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg that Bain’s London office senior partners were seriously implicated in trying to capture the SA Revenue Service.
Britain’s Lord Peter Hain had a “positive” meeting with UK Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg on Wednesday to try to persuade him that the global consultancy firm Bain & Company should be barred from tendering for UK government contracts because of its complicity in State Capture in South Africa.
Hain took with him the South African Athol Williams, a former senior partner of Bain who blew the whistle on the company’s role in “dismembering” the SA Revenue Service (SARS) and was forced to flee to the UK.
“It was a positive meeting with the minister, and Athol, who accompanied me, was able to explain in detail how seriously implicated Bain’s London office senior partners have been in the company’s scandalously unlawful role in dismembering SARS and earning £100-million fees during [former] President [Jacob] Zuma’s infamous looting and corruption by carrying out his orders,” Hain said.
“I await the minister’s response to my request that Bain be suspended from tendering for or operating any UK government contracts until the Zondo report’s recommended prosecutions of the company have been completed.”
Earlier this week, Hain criticised Rees-Mogg in the House of Lords, saying he suspected the minister had been swayed by Bain’s “superficial internal changes and repayment of only a small fraction of the fees they earned from South African public sector contracts”.
He said Rees-Mogg had promised “appropriate” action, but he had seen none.
Hain has introduced two amendments to the Public Procurement Bill, which would empower the British government to explicitly bar Bain and any other company which had behaved unlawfully or unethically in another country, from tendering for UK government contracts.
He said US-based Bain held several contracts with the UK government, despite the fact that several of its employees who had been in its South African office at the time of its complicity with the Zuma government were now based in its UK office.
His proposed amendments offered “an opportunity to stop this onslaught, at least as it relates to Bain, and any other corporate complicit. Bain continues to refuse to make full disclosure in South Africa and refuses to make amends for the terrible harms done.
“They similarly refuse to make amends to their former senior partner in South Africa, Mr Athol Williams, who acted with integrity to offer them guidance in taking the right action and then, owing to their refusal, was forced to blow the whistle, at great personal and financial cost.
“Mr Williams testified before the Zondo Commission and was praised by the commission in its report, but bears the burden of Bain’s defamation. He has now fled to the UK for his safety.
“I therefore find it completely unacceptable that Bain is licensed to operate commercially in the UK, the USA or anywhere else in the world — at least until it has repaid all its fees earned from the South African state during the Zuma/Gupta years, made full amends and answered charges in the courts there.”
Though Hain’s proposed amendments were supported by several other Labour Party or crossbench lords, the Conservative Party lords were not persuaded.
Conservative Party Lord Nicholas True told the House of Lords that Hain’s amendment set the threshold too low for such a serious measure, of acting in any way unlawfully or unethically.
The Conservatives believed exclusion should be reserved for suppliers which posed a serious risk to contracting authorities or the public.
“We believe that it is also appropriate that the decision to exclude suppliers falls in general to the contracting authority running a procurement.” DM
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