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South Africa – Whistleblower testifies to fraudulent behavior of a major consulting company

Whistleblower Atholl Williams’ testimony shows Bain & Company enabled the dismantling of a government agency

(Johannesburg, March 24th, 2021) – The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, Fraud and Corruption, aka the Zondo Commission have heard this week testimony from whistleblower Atholl Williams, a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town and a management consultant to various organisations. This testimony is further strengthened by a new report by the The Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF).

Supported by PPLAAF, Williams submitted an affidavit to the commission and testified to his sixteen months as an independent contractor for Bain & Company to oversee the company’s investigation into contracts and work with South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the required reporting to the Nugent Commission, an Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

During his investigation, Williams uncovered attempts by Bain & Co to understate the full extent of their involvement with former President Jacob Zuma and former SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane, which ultimately resulted in the capture and repurposing of SARS and the destruction of its enforcement capabilities.

Williams testimony provides evidence on a much earlier timeline origins showing how between 2012 and 2015, Bain was actively creating strategies and supporting documents for the restructuring of state agencies and entities, alongside plans to structure entire sectors of the South African economy. This involved meetings between Bain and former President Jacob Zuma. In these meetings, they discussed “Project Phoenix”, a strategy to get more public sector business.

According to Williams “While claiming that such restructuring would offer economic benefits and service improvement to South African society, the consistent theme is that of restructuring which, in my view, was aimed at bringing as many organisations and as many financial resources under more concentrated control, which would greatly facilitate state capture. Much like Bain did at SARS [… ], the restructured public entities would be repurposed to serve an agenda most likely not in the public interest. Bain labelled these plans “reshaping the South African economy.”

Williams’ testimony is further supported by a new research report by PPLAAF, which reviews the formation and execution of the plan to capture and restructure SARS.

The plan to strategically restructure SARS relied on people such as Jonas Makwakwa who, while employed at SARS, is alleged by Williams to have handed SARS information over to the Bain representative and Moyane without authorisation.

The information was used by Bain to create a diagnostic summary model designed to allegedly remove key investigators and investigative units from SARS. The same summary would later be given to Gupta-linked Trillian. Internal correspondence dated 2017 including a memo between Eric Wood and another employee that apparently sought to take over where Bain left off.

The report covers the timeline of involvement of former President Jacob Zuma, Tom Moyane, Bain & Co, Gartner, Rangewave and Patrick Monyeki in the restructuring and ultimate decimation of SARS organisational and IT infrastructure.

It also highlights the promotion of a culture of fear in SARS which led to a mass exodus of staff and institutional knowledge, with catastrophic results. It correlates these activities with timing of the so-called ‘rogue unit’ narrative driven by certain SARS officials and the Sunday Times, a narrative which has since been discredited.

In so doing, Williams testimony bravely contextualises the context in which State Capture unfolded. “South Africa needs healing.” Williams said. “This healing is incomplete without justice, and there can be no justice without the truth. My testimony is my contribution to our country’s pursuit of truth, which I hope will contribute to justice and healing.”

“The phenomenon known as ‘State Capture’ would not have been possible without the cynical involvement of international consulting companies such as Bain”, said PPLAAF’s board member Khadija Sharife. “And once again, it is a whistleblower taking a massive personal risk that has allowed the truth to be revealed.”

PPLAAF is a non-governmental organization established in 2017 to protect whistleblowers, as well as to advocate and engage in strategic litigation on their behalf when their revelations deal with the general interests of African citizens

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