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