Lessons from the NPA: When the Past Comes Back to Haunt You

Sep 1, 2014

More skeletons have fallen out of the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) closet, throwing security flaws within government into the spotlight once again. Could the same types of breaches be happening within your organisation? The NPA is one of the highest State organs, with the responsibility of instituting criminal proceedings, but the latest controversy surrounding the possible suspension of National Director Mxolisi Nxasana has once again brought a familiar sense of confusion and politicking to the fore.

Just one day before the NPA was set to lay new charges against former Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli for assault, kidnapping, fraud and other related crimes, the Presidency announced the news that the NPA National Director Mxolisi Nxasana was to be suspended. In a case of political meddling, the criminal spotlight was suddenly shifted to Nxasana.

Another skeleton falls out the closet

The embattled director, Nxasana, had been asked to step down by former Justice Minister, Jeff Radebe, after he had failed to declare his involvement in a 1985 murder trial, during which he was acquitted due to successfully raising the defence of self-defence. However, he has also been included in additional cases of assault and negligent driving.

Nxasana claims that it is a blatant smear campaign. Two of his predecessors, namely Vusi Pikoli and Bulelani Ngcuka, also exited the NPA under a dark cloud. Factional fighting within the government aside, the case raises serious security issues.

Should an employee declare a past offence, even if he was cleared of it? Should someone with a criminal background not be allowed to hold positions within government, particularly
the State organ responsible for bringing criminal proceedings against others?

That issue is up for debate, and I certainly have my views. Rehabilitation is always possible and can prove to be successful in many cases. However, once again, the embarrasing
failure of government to screen highlevel directors ahead of appointment has eroded the NPA’s credibility and hamstrung the legitimacy of the judicial process.

Lessons from this debacle What is not up for debate is keeping your company safe and sound. A criminal past or allegations of criminality remains a stigma that is hard to shake. There are a few important lessons to take away from the NPA debacle.

When someone is appointed to a senior position of trust and power, the bigger the magnifying glass should be on their previous records – from CV to certification checks, from a credit history check to criminal clearance.

Arousing criminality

This is another lesson that the private sector can take to heart. As a company owner, your priority is to keep your company safe. A security clearance for each candidate, which can greatly minimise risk, is especially critical if the candidate is going to be an authority figure, or will be acting in a financial or security role. If you don’t start with the right investigations, or
ignore them altogether, then problems will arise with disturbing repetition.

The other take-out from this latest government debacle is to have a committee in charge

By Jenny Reid
Managing Director of iFacts
of security checks, rather than a sole security consultant; it is also makes strategic sense to outsource this function to an impartial security provider.

Inside threat?

iFacts has been assisting South African companies to remove the risk associated with people for the last 13 years. We understand that your board of directors, your non-executive board,
as well as your employees can be your greatest partners in success, but if they are not selected wisely, they can also pose a serious threat.

If you have a senior employee hiding a shady past in your organisation and they don’t declare this to you, this person is often more susceptible to blackmail and coercion – they are at risk even of selling your company out to protect their secrets. There is always the fear that their criminality will be easily aroused to the detriment of your brand.


Clean as a whistle

The ongoing political controversy surrounding the NPA could have been avoided if an inquiry into the past of each incumbent director took place before that person was appointed. A transparent process is the only way to ensure that you choose someone who is as clean as a whistle. A consistent security clearance procedure should be part of every candidate’s entry into your company, from supplier to senior director.

For further information about iFacts, contact:
Jenny Reid, iFacts CEO
Tel: (011) 609 5124
E-mail: jenny@ifacts.co.za

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