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By Citizen Reporter


30 years into democracy, fronting practices still an issue in SA – BEE Chamber

Transformation is now under a serious threat

Even 30 years into the country’s democracy, fronting practices with regard to Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) is still widely practised, The BEE Chamber of South Africa has confirmed that .

This is undermining the efforts made by the government to try to achieve a more equal and prosperous South African society, the chamber says.

As such, transformation is now under a serious threat, the chamber has said.

Reona Strydom, a technical specialist and expert on all areas of B-BBEE at The BEE Chamber, said that such practices need to be rooted out of the country’s business and legal ecosystems if it is ever to see the kind of society that was envisioned in the Constitution.

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The official definition of “Fronting Practice” in the B-BBEE Act is a transaction, arrangement or other act or conduct that directly or indirectly undermines or frustrates the achievement of the objectives of this Act or the implementation of any of the provisions of this Act.

“The problem we face is that BEE Fronting Practice is not widely recognised as a crime, but is rather seen as a compliance issue, or in many cases is also seen as a ‘victimless crime’ which it is not,” says Strydom.

“However, bluntly put, it is a calculated group effort to create an illusion of transformation. It is designed to serve selfish purposes and ultimately undermines the economic emancipation of millions of South Africans,” says Strydom.

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Fronting Practice risks factors to consider:

  • These include generic risk areas for Fronting Practice such as overlapping measurement periods, incorrect Codes on B-BBEE certificates, incorrect legislations applied to B-BBEE Verification Certificates, or failure to use an accredited B-BBEE Rating Agency.
  • In terms of business ownership, Black shareholding is invalid if the person’s ownership rights are limited or nonexistent.
  • In terms of management, B-BBEE is fraudulent if a Black directorship is falsely or incorrectly claimed, if a Black director or manager is appointed but has no day-to-day involvement or voting rights in the business, if management or employee data is manipulated, when employees are classified as disabled when they do not meet the criteria, or when white employees are outsourced to lessen the white headcount.
  • On the Skills Development side, companies commit Fronting Practice when they claim skills spend on training that never took place, when they falsely register people for multiple learnerships, or when training demographics are falsely classified.
  • In terms of Enterprise Development, companies also bend the rules when they claim B-BBEE points for beneficiaries who have been liquidated or closed shop, when they classify loans as grants, when they inaccurately claim early payments to beneficiaries, or when they claim points for programmes that don’t meet B-BBEE Enterprise or Supplier Development criteria.
  • Some companies also falsely claim to have created jobs in beneficiary businesses or to have granted graduation certificates to trainees when they have not.
  • Fronting Practice can happen in procurement processes if the suppliers misrepresent their true B-BBEE status such as their size (EME, QSE or Generic) or split the business to ensure eligibility as an EME or QSE, window-dressing their Black ownership status or true nature of their business and its operations.
  • Companies can also incorrectly record exclusions, third-party procurement, Total Measured Procurement Spend (TMPS) and general supplier B-BBEE credentials.

It is also important to note, says Strydom, that Socio-Economic Development initiatives must be income-generating and provide beneficiaries with real sustainable access to economic opportunities.