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#GuptaCurse: SAP quietly pulls plug on suspended MD Brett Parker’s statement

JOHANNESBURG — In July this year, just after investigative journalism team amaBhungane broke a massive story about SAP being embroiled in a kickback scandal with the Guptas, the company’s then South African MD, Brett Parker, issued a hard-hitting, defensive statement. In that statement, Parker strongly denied that SAP had embarked in corrupt activities by paying Gupta-linked CAD House a R100m kickback to secure business to the tune of almost R1bn with state-owned Transnet. But days later, Parker – along with three other SAP South African managers – was suspended by SAP. The company subsequently also launched an internal probe — the results of which are expected to be released at the end of October. Parker’s statement, at the time, added fuel to the fire, sparking controversy over the way in which he reacted to the scandal. Parker remains suspended and it’s unclear if he will ultimately lose his job. But in the meantime, SAP has quietly removed Parker’s statement from their press website altogether. This is a fact that was interestingly picked up by the Wall Street Journal on their front page expose on the Guptas this week. I also searched the SAP website for Parker’s controversial statement but it has, it seems, disappeared from the company’s website altogether. Does this then form part of a retraction on the part of SAP or Parker? Does it further mean that Parker issued the statement without getting the green light from SAP’s head office in Europe? These are questions that unfortunately have gone unanswered when I emailed SAP’s press team yesterday. You can read my full email to SAP in this post. Meanwhile, I’ve republished Parker’s now-deleted statement at the bottom of this post as well, because on the internet, nothing ever really disappears… – Gareth van Zyl

A sign sits outside the SAP SE office in Budapest, Hungary. Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg
This is an email that I wrote to SAP spokespeople Ansophie Strydom and Nicola Leske on Wednesday, 11 October at 13:31.

Hi Ansophie and Nicola,

I trust you’re well. I’m writing to you today because the Wall Street Journal has run an expose today on the Guptas (the story appeared on the front page of the WSJ and mentions SAP along with KPMG, McKinsey and Bell Pottinger). https://www.wsj.com/articles/kickbacks-leaks-and-a-wedding-inside-the-political-scandal-rocking-south-africa-1507653332?shareToken=st048b71d819ee4f70ad3bffcef661b09e&reflink=article_email_share

Brett Parker, SAP Africa MD.
Brett Parker, SAP Africa MD.

The story, though, mentions an interesting detail about SAP:

“SAP’s South African unit denied making any kickbacks, but the statement was removed from the company’s website. An SAP spokesman declined to comment on the removal. SAP has said it would release before the end of October the findings of an internal investigation into its dealings with the Guptas.” 

The statement that the WSJ talks about above refers to a statement previously released by SAP Africa MD Brett Parker in July this year. I tried finding the statement again on SAP’s website, but it seemingly has been removed.

Parker stopped short of threatening legal action against the media in that statement and he denied the allegations regarding the kickback. Seeing as the statement is now gone from the SAP website, I have the following questions:

  1. Does the removal of Parker’s statement form part of a formal retraction him or from SAP?
  2. Does the removal of his statement indicate that his statement wasn’t properly authorised from SAP’s head office in Europe?
  3. Also, is Parker still employed at SAP or has he been fired?

Thanks,

Gareth van Zyl,

Deputy managing editor at BizNews.com.

Here is the response from SAP’s Ansophie Strydom:

Hi Gareth,

Thank you so much for your email.

SAP will provide an update on the investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in its South African business during the last week of October 2017. We remain committed to delivering on our initial promise to manage this process in a transparent way and to give a full account to our employees, customers, partners and the South African public. We are acutely aware that we owe South Africa answers.

Regards,

Ansophie


Published below is Brett Parker’s statement, which was issued on July 11, 2017. It originally appeared on the SAP press room website, but the statement appears to have been completely removed. For posterity’s sake, we’ve posted his statement here again. A search for Parker on LinkedIn indicates that he says he’s still employed by SAP. Parker is among four SAP executives who were suspended in that week in July.

By Brett Parker*

SAP strongly rejects allegations of kickbacks recently made by some South Africa-based media. The accusations made around the use and payment of subcontractors are unfounded and unsubstantiated.

Read more: Corrupt SAP exposed. Gupta bribery to pull in US, German authorities.

SAP is dedicated to conducting every aspect of our business responsibly and in accordance with the highest global compliance and legal standards. As part of its day to day business, SAP South Africa engages various subcontractors, SMEs and partners and it has always been and will continue to be SAP’s policy to partner with a wide pool of organisations that qualify for our partner programme, if those organisations successfully meet the exacting criteria of our global due diligence and certification processes.

SAP has taken strong exception to the reports issued in the media today, and is investigating possible action.

  • Brett Parker is Managing Director for SAP Africa. 
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