The rein­ven­tion of a cor­rup­tion buster

Af­ter blow­ing the whis­tle on North West mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lors who were de­mand­ing kick­backs, Fik­ile Bili strug­gled to se­cure con­tracts in other prov­inces. But he’s come up with a new plan for suc­cess

CityPress - - Careers - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­

What do you do when you refuse to take part in cor­rup­tion? Bust a few mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lors de­mand­ing kick­backs for a con­tract, and then your busi­ness suf­fers be­cause of it? This is the sit­u­a­tion Fik­ile Bili found him­self in af­ter he se­cretly recorded a num­ber of coun­cil­lors in the strug­gling Dit­sobotla Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in North West de­mand­ing bribes in re­turn for award­ing him a debt col­lec­tion con­tract.

Af­ter City Press ran an ex­posé on Bili’s record­ings and the com­plaint he laid with the Hawks, the busi­ness­man pitched for con­tracts with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties from North­ern Cape to Mpumalanga – only to be told he wouldn’t get them be­cause he “recorded peo­ple”.

Now he is de­ter­mined that he will not be hounded out of busi­ness and has branched out into an­other line of work en­tirely – the ve­hi­cle track­ing busi­ness.

This in­dus­try, he said, prob­a­bly wouldn’t re­quire him to be ex­pected to bribe any­one.

Founded ear­lier this year, FixTrack has al­ready reg­is­tered more than 3 000 cus­tomers. Bili said his new busi­ness was the “first black-owned ve­hi­cle track­ing com­pany” in the coun­try and said it was al­ready trusted by own­ers of su­per­cars such as Lam­borgh­i­nis, who form a large part of his client base.

Be­fore this, Bili, through his com­pany Zandile Man­age­ment Ser­vices, helped mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in­crease their rev­enue through debt col­lec­tion. He would earn an agreed per­cent­age of what he col­lected for the coun­cil.

Every­thing was go­ing well un­til he came across mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials who de­manded kick­backs from him to se­cure con­tracts.

“I do my job to em­power oth­ers ... I em­ploy mostly the youth with­out qual­i­fi­ca­tions and train them to work in our call cen­tres, and I would rather they get a pay raise than be forced to throw money at cor­rupt of­fi­cials. I just can’t,” Bili said.

Late last year, Bili recorded eight Dit­sobotla coun­cil­lors de­mand­ing kick­backs of R250 000 from him in re­turn for en­sur­ing that his com­pany re­tained its con­tract with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and paid him on time.

“I could not do it. I just had to ex­pose their greed and cor­rup­tion at the ex­pense of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, which was al­ready strug­gling fi­nan­cially – and here were peo­ple say­ing to busi­ness­men that they wanted a share of their earn­ings. This has be­come the norm in most mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and gov­ern­ment de­part­ments,” he said.

“I still work with some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties where things are run pro­fes­sion­ally and where my ser­vice is highly ap­pre­ci­ated be­cause we’re help­ing strug­gling mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to get what they are owed.

“There are, how­ever, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties where you have to pay a kick­back just for your pay­ment to be pro­cessed, and you must con­tinue pay­ing cor­rupt of­fi­cials all the time for them to en­sure the con­tract is re­tained.”

When con­trac­tors – who were owed mil­lions by the ail­ing Thabaz­imbi Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Lim­popo – at­tached of­fice fur­ni­ture and ve­hi­cles owned by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, Bili said he de­cided to con­tinue work­ing for it.

“I could not just aban­don them be­cause they have prob­lems, know­ing very well that this was the time they needed my ser­vices des­per­ately. They will pay me when they can, but I can still con­tinue work­ing for Thabaz­imbi and con­trib­ute through my ser­vice to­wards their fi­nan­cial re­sus­ci­ta­tion,” he said.

Af­ter the Dit­sobotla saga, Bili said it was dif­fi­cult for him to win con­tracts with other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties be­cause he had al­ready ex­posed him­self as a no-non­sense busi­ness­man who was not pre­pared to get in­volved in un­der­handed deal­ings.

“I just had to put my en­tre­pre­neur­ial think­ing cap on and think of some­thing else – and that’s when I de­cided to go into ve­hi­cle track­ing,” he said.

“My com­pany, FixTrack, uses so­phis­ti­cated ve­hi­cle track­ing tech­nol­ogy that goes be­yond just track­ing move­ment and se­cur­ing the ve­hi­cle. Our ul­ti­mate in­ten­tion is to save lives as well. The re­al­ity is that South Africans are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing more ir­re­spon­si­ble driv­ers, so we came up with tech­nol­ogy that will be able to sense if the driver is un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol. We’re work­ing to­wards an in­te­grated sys­tem linked to na­tional traf­fic au­thor­i­ties that will be able to im­me­di­ately re­port any wrong­do­ing, such as driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol and speed­ing.

“We’re not only about track­ing and re­cov­ery of ve­hi­cles, but we want to change driv­ing habits and pre­vent fa­tal­i­ties, as well as curb the abuse of com­pany or state ve­hi­cles. Our plan is to have 200 000 ve­hi­cles un­der our pro­tec­tion by 2018 and ex­pand into other coun­tries in the South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity.”

DE­TER­MINED Fik­ile Bili has branched out into the ve­hi­cle track­ing busi­ness, and is now the owner of FixTrack

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