German enterprise software giant SAP has undertaken to publish the outcome of an external probe into alleged wrongdoing at its South African unit during the last week of October 2017.
In a statement late on Friday, SAP said the investigation by international law firm Baker McKenzie, which it contracted in July to probe allegations about kickbacks paid to Gupta-owned companies to secure business at Transnet and other government entities, will be wrapped up in the coming weeks.
In July, SAP placed four senior executives from its South African team on “administrative leave” pending the finalisation of the investigation.
“The team from Baker McKenzie has been reviewing and scrutinising large volumes of data, talking to a variety of stakeholders and conducting interviews with all relevant persons,” the company said in Friday’s statement.
“We are acutely aware that we owe South Africa answers. While we understand the public’s legitimate frustration at the length of the investigation, it is imperative that we get this process right,” said Adaire Fox Martin, a member of the executive board of SAP.
“We remain committed to delivering on our initial promise to manage this process in a transparent way and to give a full account to our employees, customers, partners and the South African public.”
The investigation follows a report published on the Daily Maverick and News24 and written by investigative journalism units amaBhungane and Scorpio in which it was alleged that SAP paid a 10% “sales commission” to a company controlled by the Guptas to secure a contract worth at least R100m from state-owned Transnet.
According to the report, the terms suggested a “thinly disguised kickback arrangement”.
The report, which drew on information contained in the so-called “Gupta Leaks” e-mail trove, said that in August 2015 SAP signed a “sales commission agreement” with the Gupta-controlled CAD House, which sells 3D printers.
“The terms suggest a thinly disguised kickback arrangement: if the Gupta company were the ‘effective cause’ of SAP landing a Transnet contract worth R100m or more, it would get 10%,” the report stated. In the year that followed, SAP paid CAD House R99.9m, it added, “suggesting SAP used the Gupta influence network to drive sales of a billion rand to Transnet and other state-owned companies”.
SAP said on Friday that it is “committed to the highest standards of business ethics”.
The company’s policy “is, and always has been, to carry out all company activities in accordance with the letter and spirit of applicable laws”.
“SAP will not tolerate any misconduct. Any evidence of wrongdoing will be dealt with vigorously and comprehensively.”
Earlier on Friday, SAP chairman Hasso Plattner, who owns the golf estate Fancourt in George in the Western Cape, apologised to “the people of South Africa”.
In a letter to the website BizNews, Plattner said: “The news about questionable sales commissions by SAP in South Africa was brought to my attention by my daughter Kristina. As you can imagine I was shocked and asked for an immediate investigation and suspension of the SAP people involved.”
He added: “I can guarantee you that we will turn over every leaf in order to find out what happened or didn’t happen.The business ethics of SAP are clearly stated and there is no room for deviation. As soon as the facts are on the table, the SAP supervisory board will meet and discuss the consequences. For the time being, I profoundly apologise to the people of South Africa that this news has created any questions about the ethical business conduct of SAP.” — © 2017 NewsCentral Media