Bring the au­di­tors to ac­count

Sunday Tribune - - OPINION -

THEY say a new broom sweeps clean, but the old one knows all the cor­ners. We hope the new chief ex­ec­u­tive of be­lea­guered au­dit firm KPMG has been shown all the cor­ners.

Nh­lamu Dlomu takes over in the wake of top ex­ec­u­tives de­part­ing amid rev­e­la­tions of un­eth­i­cal work and al­le­ga­tions of in­volve­ment in “state cap­ture”.

She said she was com­mit­ted to rec­ti­fy­ing “mis­takes iden­ti­fied” at KPMG SA and de­ter­mined to en­sure the firm sur­vived, jobs were saved and trust re­built.

A daunt­ing task lies ahead for her and time is of the essence. She must sweep up quickly to pro­tect the 3500 or so jobs on the line and re­store the tat­tered rep­u­ta­tion of the once-re­spected arm of the multi­na­tional con­sul­tancy.

The grow­ing num­ber of com­pa­nies that have ei­ther sev­ered ties with KPMG or are con­sid­er­ing do­ing so sug­gests an ur­gent need for cor­rec­tive ac­tion.

The au­dit­ing and man­age­ment con­sult­ing fra­ter­nity has been tar­nished. South Africa’s im­age, and that of its fi­nan­cial sec­tor, has also been dam­aged.

Cit­i­zens are owed not just an apol­ogy and the re­turn of the tax­pay­ers’ money ap­plied to any sus­pect work, but a com­plete ac­count­ing.

While the for­mer head and his se­nior ex­ec­u­tives have ex­ited, more re­pair work is needed. They must tell the truth. Some­body must be held to ac­count and prose­cu­tions must fol­low.

KPMG is one of the four ma­jor au­dit­ing firms South Africa’s fi­nan­cial sec­tor trusted to hold to ac­count pri­vate and sta­te­owned en­ter­prises. With this huge cloud hang­ing over its head, can we still trust it to do its job and help pre­vent the mis­man­age­ment of pub­lic and pri­vate re­sources that seems to be get­ting out of hand?

Cor­rup­tion is tak­ing a toll on our econ­omy. For­eign in­vestors hes­i­tate to trust us with their money and lo­cals are said to be sit­ting on as much as R700 bil­lion.

The re­sult is a sub­dued econ­omy, rev­enue short­falls for the fis­cus and con­cern that the rot may set in if not ar­rested.

The Univer­sity of Kwazulu-na­tal’s Nel­son R Man­dela Med­i­cal School has its own cloud of cor­rup­tion fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions of study places-for-sale. And KPMG has been at the cen­tre of that in­ves­ti­ga­tion. With so many sev­er­ing ties with this com­pany, the stu­dent body has put pres­sure on the in­sti­tu­tion of higher learn­ing to also cut ties with KPMG.

Is the univer­sity happy with KPMG’S work? So far, it has not ex­pressed a view on the mat­ter. But in­ac­tion will not help the univer­sity’s im­age. Per­haps the univer­sity should heed its stu­dent body.

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