Chapter 14

An outsourcing nightmare

The case of the company that even the Commissioner couldn’t stop

Great is the power of steady misrepresentation; but the history of science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure.

Charles Darwin (1809–1882), from The Origin of Species, 6th edition


In 1998, a little-known vehicle fleet management company bid for the contract for the repair and maintenance of Scotland Yard’s fleet of five thousand operational vehicles. As part of their supporting documentation, they provided an unusual video to put across their case. A well-known TV presenter had produced and narrated it on their behalf. But perhaps the most surprising part of it was a clip about their joint venture in South Africa, which showed no less a person than the current President of South Africa, then the President of KwaZulu-Natal, Jacob Zuma.

Zuma appeared on the video praising the company, Venson Group, and its joint venture in South Africa, Kobi-Venson. Also present on the video was Schabir Shaik, owner of the Kobi half of the joint venture and founder of Nkobi Holdings, a man eventually sentenced to fifteen years in prison for corruption in 2005 by the South African Government over government arms contracts, when, among other things, accused of bribing Jacob Zuma. It was Shaik’s conviction that triggered President Thabo Mbeki to dismiss Zuma from the Deputy President’s post in 2005.

I must make it clear before you read on that the Venson ...

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