New Stakeholder Group–Corruption Watch poses Reputation Risk Threat

Readers of my blog may recall that I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that organisations should monitor the formation of new alliances and associations in their field, so that they can pre-empt and where necessary, engage with and build relationships with these stakeholders to protect their reputation.

Yesterday, a new stakeholder group was launched that will specifically target corruption in South Africa. Corruption Watch is an autonomous watchdog that will enable victims of graft and ordinary citizens to make reports that will be swiftly attended to by independent professionals, and is supported and financed by some corporate foundations and companies including Aveng, Ernst & Young and the Industrial Development Corporation. It will have its own staff, including lawyers, auditors and accountants as case officers.

The Cosatu-initiated organisation will gather, analyse and expose information.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ annual survey of CEOs released this week found 66% of South African bosses were concerned about corruption, compared with 34% in other countries.

Corruption Watch’s executive director, David Lewis, said at the launch of the unit in Johannesburg yesterday that it would attack private-and public-sector corruption equally. He also said that the organisation had a website to enable victims of corruption to lodge complaints.

The body will be independent of the government and organised business. Part of Corruption Watch’s work would be to strengthen the accountability of those – in both the public and private sectors – who are in a position to influence the deployment of, and access to, public resources.

The watchdog collects information from victims, accomplices and whistle-blowers, documents media reports and research studies in other public sources, gathers information through its online reporting form, analyses data to identify patterns and endemic sites of corruption, and investigates and publicises research reports on hotspots of corruption.

Already Corruption Watch has suggested the JSE suspend corrupt firms’ listings, impose fines for illegal behaviour and create other prohibitory measures.

The unit would outsource investigations of corruption brought to its attention to lawyers, accountants, auditors and other professionals.

These professionals will most certainly include the Media & Social Media players like bloggers and other influentials. Using the Media to expose and create exposure and awareness is a technique that has been used to great effect by people like Elliott Spitzer, the ex- Attorney General of New York.

This watchdog body will have to be on the radar screen of not only Corporate Affairs Managers but also Compliance Officers, as its formation poses a significant reputation risks for companies who do not act quickly & significantly to weed out corruption in their own organisations.

Reputation Managers will need to work closely with their in- house counterparts to prevent unnecessary reputation risk by not only talking about weeding out corruption, BUT running programs that will show stakeholders their interest and commitment to deal with issues like corruption.