An investigation by SAP into allegations that kickbacks in the form of sales commissions might have been paid to a Gupta-aligned company will delve into the workings of the entire South African operation – and might ask questions on a global level too.

Adaire Fox-Martin, executive board member: global customer operations at SAP, will arrive in South Africa tomorrow (14 July) to oversee a probe being carried out by SAP’s own internal forensic team as well as a global third-party organisation.

“We are doing a thorough review,” she says. “The priority is this deal, but we will review the entire business of SAP South Africa in the process.”

The investigation will start with the allegations carried in Tuesday’s amaBhungane report that CAD House was signed up as an SAP partner and paid a 10% sales commission specifically to clinch a Transnet deal, Fox-Martin says.

“The internal forensic team on the ground has already begun to review data that is available in the SAP systems. We also have access to the PCs of the employees who have been placed on administrative leave.

“We are looking at who, what, why and when, and holistically at the SAP business as part of this process.”

On suggestions that earlier media reports should have raised red flags within SAP, Fox-Martin says part of the investigation will focus on understanding where those flags were and what was done about them.

“Once we have concluded it, we will disclose the results of the investigation,” she emphasises, while refusing to be drawn into what action would be taken if wrongdoing was found to have taken place.

SAP continues to reject allegations that it paid kickbacks to Gupta-aligned CAD House to secure a R100-million Transnet contract, as well as further payments totalling almost R100-million, Fox-Martin says.

Although SAP’s South African operation is under the spotlight, it’s possible that global approval processes should have kicked in.

“There is a global approval process,” says Fox-Martin. “There is a very clear delegation of authority in our global policy that defines if a transaction is approved in the geography or globally.”

Pressed on whether a R100-million deal should have been escalated to global, she says that question will be part of the review process.

“That is why we are conducting a holistic review.”

Fox-Martin confirms that all new partners are vetted. “There is a due diligence process to every deal that SAP participates in.”

Regarding questions about the specific circumstances of CAD House’s appointment, she says the review currently underway will be able to answer that.

As a global company operating in 180 countries worldwide, SAP has firm processes relating to governance in place. “We are constantly reviewing our processes and procedures, and constantly educating our employees about compliance,” Fox-Martin says.

“Are we 100% perfect? No. But we are constantly evolving and if we find things in the system that are not right, we will evolve and improve those processes.”

Fox-Martin stresses that SAP and its executive board are committed to getting to the bottom of the allegations.

“We owe it to the employees, customers and partners as well as the broader community in South Africa and Africa,” she says.

Fox-Martin will be on the ground to manage the investigation from tomorrow. She has spoken telephonically to employees, however. “Our stance that we are launching a vigorous and transparent investigation has been received very positively by employees.”