The thin line between bribery and paying for services rendered 5


Now don’t get me wrong – Mentornet will never ever pay anybody a bribe for the simple reason that it is against the law. Problem is, now that the Minister of Higher education and Training in his infinite wisdom decided to channel almost all skills grants to public learning institutions he might just have unleashed a new corruption and bribery beast in especially FET Colleges. If I add my own experiences to what people tell me is happening then I am afraid the new beast might just milk the National Skills Fund dry. I am often approached by people who promise us attractive contracts if only I would pay them their share. It is really frustrating when you know that you are losing a good amount of income every time you refuse to pay a bribe.

They never ask you for a bribe directly, so you cannot report them. They leave no evidence. Instead they would discuss with you how bad it is that so many people in FET Colleges accept bribes, how the guilty are never caught. If anybody in a discussion again moves his hand below waist level from front to back to illustrate how people are paid money “under the table” I will scream. Next he will tell you that the college does not give him any recognition for his hard work. And when he realises that you have no intention of paying a bribe he will tell you that he agrees with you, that he is a Christian and that he is impressed with your integrity. When he leaves your office so do your chances of getting the contract.

Then again, I do wonder if such people do not deserve some kind of fee for helping you get the contract. After all, why can such a person not be paid a finder’s fee? A FET College manager once invited me to his office to discuss a tender we submitted. He negotiated a 40% discount for the college on one of the items on the tender – a discount of more than R100 000.00 on the quoted fee. Surely the college should reward him for this, not so? I really don’t know and would love to hear how you feel about this. I also asked my attorney to research the issue, to see if there is a legal way in which one can reward him or her. I subsequently received his report. In a nutshell, paying an individual a ‘finder’s fee’, commission or gratification puts you in an unfair competitive advantage and this is against the law. It does not matter if the payment is declared or not, it is still illegal. You can be sentenced to jail for life, should you be found guilty of such an offence. My attorney also made an appointment for me with an advocate to see if he could, perhaps, suggest a way in which one can reward individuals for contracts without breaking the law.  He did suggest alternatives, but no real solution. The law is clear and if you break the law you’re in trouble. If “they” catch you, that is.

In closing, and this is directed at those who try to bribe us. Please, please don’t even invite us to tender if you have in mind that we should bribe you. It is really frustrating to say no to so many attractive projects and I don’t want to hear about them. Give them to those who are willing to pay you your bribe. I discussed this with my staff members and am proud of their stance. We are happy with the clients who do not require of us to break any laws. So, for the rest of you, just go away.

Dr Hannes Nel, MD Mentornet 

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About Hannes Nel

CEO and owner of Mentornet (Pty) Ltd. Academic background: B. Mil.; BA Honnours; MBL; D. Com; D. Phil Published 10 books with two more in the pipeline.


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5 thoughts on “The thin line between bribery and paying for services rendered

  • Claudia Nicholl

    Hi Hannes

    Unfortunately a sad situation and I don’t think it will change very soon. I work with young people on a daily basis and it is very demanding to make them understand what ‘compliance’ and ethics mean. Often their cultural circumstances are very different to those of what the company expects (and has to teach). It’s a mindset and attitude to act ethically correct and we all know how difficult and how long it takes to change that.

  • Charles Dey

    I think Pravin Gordan has just set an example which should be followed by all: if you are a senior civil servant (or private sector company executive) and you bring your organisation into disrepute (which does NOT necessarily mean that you break the law) then you will be asked to resign of fired.

  • ELLEN MAMBERA

    100% in agreement with Dr Nel.  Its really sad how bribery and corruption in particular has become endemic in our institutions and organisations.  The only way is for leadership both public and private, to show the will and determination to nap this cancer in the bud.  Capable service providers are denied the chance to offer an excellent service because they will not offer a bribe.