This is according to David Lewis, executive director of civil society organisation, Corruption Watch, speaking at the Southern Africa Anti-Corruption Summit 2014.
“If companies want to escape risks, they need to demonstrate a public association with anti-corruption initiatives. Not only will this avoid the risk of an employee being corrupt but it makes good business sense for companies to tackle corruption within the society first,” he said.
Lewis said that there is the common perception among local and international investors that corruption in South Africa is destined to get worse.
According to the Corruption Perception Index for 2013, South Africa is ranked 72 out of 177 countries for dealing in corrupt activities such as abuse of power, money laundering, secret dealings and bribery.
(READ MORE: Corruption and fraud perception in S.Africa grows)
Lewis explained that one of the main reasons why South Africa is not yet in the same league as countries with high corruption rankings such as India and Nigera is because of the establishment of world class institutions such as the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the South African Revenue Services and the National Treasury.
“South Africa has impeccable institutions with great credibility and integrity, and these are the institutions that prevent the country from falling into an abyss,” he said.
“If one of these institutions that hold South Africa on their shoulders becomes corrupt, it could have a massive impact on the country.”
He therefore believes that businesses should create solid alliances with institutions that publically combat corruption, including civil society and non-governmental groups like the Corruption Watch.
“We understand why businesses are nervous to associate with an aggressive organisation like the Corruption Watch. We represent the public and you represent business but we need to meet halfway. I urge all businesses to take the fight against corruption very seriously.”
Lewis added that improving the overall business environment is essential as it will prevent more companies that compete ethically from giving into corrupt practices.
“We need companies to commit to the same ethics in order to level the playing field and improve the business environment. Taking a stand enhances your corporate brand and it will spread to other corporates and improve the overall business brand of South Africa.”