Media Statement: The HSF Welcomes The UK Government’s Bain Ban

The United Kingdom government can only be applauded for its momentous decision to impose a three-year ban on Bain & Company from receiving work from the UK’s Cabinet Office. Bain earns this sanction for its role in the fraudulent restructuring and dismantling of the South African Revenue Services (SARS), one of the most notorious episodes in the “State Capture” period.

But South Africans must wonder why their own government has taken no equivalent action.

The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) pays tribute to whistleblower Athol Williams and member of the House of Lords in the UK, Peter Hain for their remarkable efforts in securing this sanction. We call on the South African government now to adopt similar measures in line with the findings of the State Capture and Nugent Commissions, both of which left no doubt as to Bain’s unlawful and destructive role at SARS. The fact that Bain has paid back its fees to SARS is no redress but is a gesture contemptuous of the magnitude of harm it helped cause. The resulting shortfalls in revenue collection significantly set back South Africa’s constitutional democracy and most acutely prejudiced those who are poorest and most vulnerable in South Africa.

The UK’s decision recognises that Bain’s operations in South Africa were no “rogue unit” within its global network of consultancy services, but integrally entwined. Fortunately, (or unfortunately for Bain) legal mechanisms for accountability are global in reach. The UK’s action must only be the first of its kind and Hain has already announced his intention to turn his focus to the United States, where Bain has its headquarters, to secure further sanction. In South Africa, civil society groups are exploring ways in which US laws like the Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act might be applied to secure criminal penalties against Bain.

It is to be welcomed indeed that corporate actors who sought to enrich themselves from South African state capture earn global shame. But it sends the most troubling message if the stiffest penalties they earn are from authorities other than our own.

Media Enquiries

Nicole Fritz