SAP chair Hasso Plattner responds: ‘I profoundly apologise to South Africa’


JOHANNESBURG — Hasso Plattner, the co-founder and chair of global business software giant SAP, has responded to an open letter that I penned regarding the company’s probe into its links with the Guptas. A bombshell report by AmaBhungane earlier this year revealed how SAP paid Gupta-linked CAD House R100m as an apparent kickback to win state contracts with Transnet. After SAP suspended its four South African managers and launched a probe in July, the company has since gone quiet on progress regarding the matter. SAP — along with KPMG and McKinsey & Company — finds itself entangled in the corrupt Gupta web, a saga that has exploded onto the international stage. But German businessman Plattner — who along with four other colleagues left IBM in 1972 to launch SAP — tells BizNews that his South African unit’s exposed dealings with the Guptas irked him so much that he was the one who demanded an immediate investigation and the suspension of four SAP South Africa managers. Plattner — who also owns the prestigious Fancourt Golf Estate and Hotel along the Garden Route — is promising a thorough investigation that will get to the bottom of the matter. It’s a strong, personal response from Plattner that prompts hope that SAP is taking the matter seriously. – Gareth van Zyl

Read more: Open letter to SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner: Time to act on Gupta links

By Hasso Plattner*

Dear Mr. van Zyl,

The news about questionable sales commissions by SAP in South Africa was brought to my attention by my daughter Kristina. As you can imagine I was shocked and asked for an immediate investigation and suspension of the SAP people involved.

Hasso Plattner.
Hasso Plattner. (Michael Krigsman – Flickr)

Our executive board member Adaire Fox-Martin took over the case and went to South Africa. After the suspension of four South African executives, the law firm of Baker & McKenzie was asked to lead the investigation.

That the investigation takes this long bothers me as much as it does you. A sooner response would have been preferable, but we also have to be legally correct. I understand that SAP has a responsibility to inform the public and we have strongly urged our outside counsel to expedite the investigation.

Mrs. Adaire Fox-Martin is prepared to make an announcement regarding the progress, shortly. I can guarantee you that we will turn over every leaf in order to find out what happened or didn’t happen.The business ethics of SAP are clearly stated and there is no room for deviation. As soon as the facts are on the table, the SAP Supervisory Board will meet and discuss the consequences. For the time being, I profoundly apologise to the people of South Africa that this news has created any questions about the ethical business conduct of SAP.

Sincerely yours,

Hasso Plattner     

  • Hasso Plattner is the co-founder and Chairman of SAP SE’s Supervisory Board.

UPDATE: Subsequent to our open letter to Plattner, SAP late on Friday issued a further statement on its Gupta probe in South Africa.

SAP press statement:

WALLDORF — SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) today announced that it will provide an update on the investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in its South African business during the last week of October 2017.

Adaire Fox-Martin

The company initiated an investigation spearheaded by international law firm Baker McKenzie on July 12, 2017. At the same time, SAP placed four senior executives on administrative leave, pending the finalization of this investigation. The team from Baker McKenzie has been reviewing and scrutinizing large volumes of data, talking to a variety of stakeholders and conducting interviews with all relevant persons.

“We are acutely aware that we owe South Africa answers. While we understand the public’s legitimate frustration at the length of the investigation, it is imperative that we get this process right,” said Adaire Fox-Martin, member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, who leads SAP’s business in MEE, EMEA and Greater China. “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.”

SAP is committed to the highest standards of business ethics. Its policy is, and always has been, to carry out all company activities in accordance with the letter and spirit of applicable laws in the more than 180 countries in which the company operates. SAP will not tolerate any misconduct. Any evidence of wrongdoing will be dealt with vigorously and comprehensively.

For more information, visit the SAP News Center. Follow SAP on Twitter at @sapnews.

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