Corruption can be beaten – with technology
In her address to the annual Kader Asmal lecture, hosted by the Council for the Advancement of the Constitution, NPA Head, Advocate Shamila Batohi said, ‘corruption has become so widespread that there is a real danger of it becoming entrenched and normalised in South Africa unless something serious happens soon. For too long, corrupt politicians, government employees and business leaders have acted almost with impunity to plunder the scarce resources of our country.’ With almost one-third of South Africa’s GDP lost to corruption (Shamila Batohi lecture), ordinary South Africans feel powerless to stem the flow and corporate corruption is on the rise with seven in ten companies experiencing fraud in the last year.
Corruption isn’t just tender rigging and state capture. It’s also inflating costs, supplying unnecessary equipment and using contacts inside an organisation to bypass legal procurement procedures to land a deal. All of these fraudulent activities require the falsification or alteration of documents. None of these corrupt deals could happen if it wasn’t possible to easily change the information on an original document. Often these changes aren’t noticed because they look exactly like the originals. For example, it’s hard to pick up changes to figures when a document originated in one department is changed along the way and then presented as fact to an unsuspecting finance department.
iPlate, a South African company, has pioneered leading anti-fraud technology to create a global first – the digsig – a digital signature secured in a QR code that is embossed onto a document or encrypted onto a digital platform. The digsig secures the authenticity of the information by securing it digitally, thereby protecting the original data and rendering it impossible for anyone to alter or forge any high-value document for criminal gain. As Dev Naicker, iPlate’s CEO explained, ‘People still put a lot of trust in paper documents as proof of authenticity. In this age of artificial intelligence and the fourth industrial revolution, many companies are spending billions on cybersecurity but still using a rubber stamp to authenticate high-value documents like bank statements, academic qualifications and proof of payment. These printed documents can be easily tampered with and this is where fraud is taking place on a global level. It’s the loophole that many fraudsters are using to defraud the system.
This is particularly prevalent in the tender process, where most companies are still heavily reliant on documentation – which can be easily altered by corrupt officials.’ The digsig was developed to actively assist corporates and government to fight fraud and corruption. As ordinary South Africans watch, very little is changing across the government and corporate landscape and the results of a decade of State Capture are coming in. State-owned enterprises have collapsed. Investor confidence is at an all-time low. And more and more blue-chip companies, once the pride of our nation, are struggling under corruption allegations and auditor ‘mistakes’. ‘It is hard to change the moral fibre of a corrupt person. But it’s easy to make it harder for them to conduct their corrupt activities,’ said Dev.
‘The iPlate digsig gives every South African business the chance to create a corruption-free zone. It’s time that as business leaders, we all look at how we can be more responsible and ethical in how we do business. It’s time we all do everything we can to create a culture and ethos that makes it clear we are taking a stand against corruption.’ As Advocate Batohi prepares to charge those who have stolen nearly a Trillion Rand from our country’s coffers, the digsig is on the frontlines of the anti-fraud technology that is protecting the little we have left.