Athol Williams: On what basis did BLSA let Bain & Co slip back into the fold?
In 2018, Business Leadership SA (BLSA) suspended global management consultancy group Bain & Company for its alleged role in state capture.
In fact the association was "heroically vocal" when they announced the suspension writes Athol Williams in Business Day.
"Yet BLSA has now lifted Bain’s suspension without a peep, allowing it to slink back to legitimacy, under the radar, to continue where it left off" Williams says.
Williams resigned as Bain’s SA partner in October 2019, and delivered explosive testimony at the Zondo Commission in March this year, on evidence related to the South African Revenue Services (Sars).
Bruce Whitfield interviews Williams, who is now CEO of the Institute of Social & Corporate Ethics (ISCE).
He asks whether it's known if BLSA followed some sort of due process to allow Bain back into the fold?
Well, some process was followed but whether it's due process... is questionable, especially given BLSA's own assessment of the long-term devastating effects that Bain's actions will have on our country.Athol Williams, CEO - Institute of Social & Corporate Ethics
If BLSA had assessed that Bain had caused such major damage, you'd think that the process would be quite rigorous and the criteria quite demanding... but my assessment based on on what BLSA had done and what they have now said is that they haven't met their own process!Athol Williams, CEO - Institute of Social & Corporate Ethics
Williams reads from what is the outlined process:
"If one of our members are involved in any unethical practices, we at BLSA will not pass judgement. We'll wait until there is a fair and factual impartial hearing."
Only after such a hearing would BLSA act, he says.
I accept that, but now my question is what hearing have they now got access to, because they passed judgement on Bain by actually saying Bain is now clean and they are going to be re-admitted to BLSA.Athol Williams, CEO - Institute of Social & Corporate Ethics
The Zondo Commission hearing filings aren't out, so it can't be that. The US Department of Justice is still investigating Bain... and when you look at the statement BLSA made yesterday... they say they went and spoke to a number of multinational companies and Bain itself.Athol Williams, CEO - Institute of Social & Corporate Ethics
BLSA seemed to have satisfied themselves, based on speaking to Bain itself, not to Sars, not to investigators, not to civil society organisations... that Bain has done the right things.Athol Williams, CEO - Institute of Social & Corporate Ethics
Williams notes that when BLSA suspended Bain in 2018 they were loud about it, for instance holding press conferences to announce "they had taken this big moral stand".
Yet they have re-admitted the company without it fulfilling their own criteria, he repeats.
In my testimony to the Zondo Commission I listed all the Bain people involved. Not a single person at Bain was fired, not even Vittorio Massone, the head in South Africa. It took three months to negotiate his exit - not exactly 'decisively dealt with'.Athol Williams, CEO - Institute of Social & Corporate Ethics
Listen to Williams' passionate argument in the audio clip below: