Travel key to nailing corrupt officials

Investigators for the Zondo Commission of State Capture will find it easy to nail corrupt officials if they examine travel records. Corrupt officials who accept travel have nowhere to hide, unlike those who accept cash bribes.

Former Bosasa executive, Angelo Agrizzi, detailed to the State Capture enquiry recently how Bosasa had gone as far as destroying crucial travel agency documents that implicated the company in wide-scale corruption. This corruption allegedly included footing the travel and accommodation bills for senior government officials.

Andries van Tonder, a former chief financial officer at Bosasa, detailed how documents and computers from Blake’s Travel were collected, taken to a site near Bosasa head office and dumped in a hole and burned. The hole was filled again and then covered with concrete.

A futile exercise.

Security-conscious airlines today make sure all passengers travel under their correct name and for each trip there is a Passenger Name Record with a unique booking reference. 

Even if, for instance in the case of Bosasa, company and travel agency records are destroyed, there are still several sources of incontrovertible evidence that remain.

Airlines such as Emirates and SAA could be asked by investigators for a list of passengers who have been booked through a specific travel agency, dating back years.

In South Africa, companies are required to keep records for at least five years by South African Revenue Service but airlines operating in hundreds of jurisdictions almost certainly keep them for a lot longer.

An even more complete list would be available through the Global Distribution System used by the travel agent.

Even the company that manages all baggage tracking – Aviation Coordination Services (ACS) – matches items checked in with the booking reference number.

Travel has featured often as a bribe of choice for corrupt officials. It should be easy for investigators to find out who they are.

Dave Marsh is the Managing Director of Johannesburg-based Now Media which publishes a number of specialist publications including this one.