Eighty per cent of South African companies consider political interference in the public procurement process in Zimbabwe to be a regular occurrence, according to South African executives involved in risk and ethics compliance.

Surprisingly, 60 per cent of respondents to a new survey into business ethics and compliance in SADC (South African Development Community) countries considered the same to be true of South Africa itself.
The survey, carried out by the University of Stellenbosch Business School questioned representatives of 26 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, mainly compliance officers, non-executive directors, risk managers or company secretaries.

Forty per cent of respondents said bribing of public officials to win tenders happened often in Zimbabwe. Even more (55 per cent) considered this was the case in South Africa.

The survey said of South Africa: “While business is generally easier and cheaper to do than in the rest of the region, bribery and corruption are perceived to be especially prevalent in the granting of government contracts and procurement tenders.”

But the survey acknowledged perceptions towards South Africa itself may have been skewed negatively by the fact all respondents lived there or were employed by South African companies. Employees were “therefore more exposed to media reports of corruption in South Africa, or are more likely to have witnessed corrupt acts, than in the other SADC countries”, the survey added.

Mauritius was the only SADC country to be perceived as having a “very or somewhat ethical” business environment. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique were considered to be the most corrupt countries.

The survey said awareness campaigns, training or policy development should be encouraged to help companies deal with tender bribery and political interference in the public procurement process. It also recommended additional care should be taken when doing business or considering investments in countries that are consistently perceived to be corrupt.