Setback for women executives
KPMG damage control
THE Thabo Mbeki regime unwittingly begat the Jacob Zuma oligarchy, which in turn unwittingly scalped Bell Pottinger, withered the reputation of McKinsey and is now bringing about the demise of an auditing services giant in the form of KPMG.
Not that this in itself is a tragedy of great proportions, but rather the timing of ushering in a black woman professional as a commander-in-chief, together with some aspiring lieutenants, to now take the responsibility of resuscitating the once prodigious KPMG monster that choked from over-indulging in the trough of fortunes.
To me, KPMG’s self-imposed calamity seems to have been primarily occasioned by greed.
Then came the day when the parliamentarians knew they were making themselves shine at the reputational cost of black professionals who heeded the call to save KPMG and found themselves under venomous attack in parliament.
The politicians would not miss out on the opportunity to go for the jugular of the messengers of doomed ex-commanders of depleted virtues, the retirees of KPMG.
Indeed the new lieutenants were not spared in the merciless mauling of the image of the once noble auditing profession.
The victor was always going to be the politicians, salivating at the thought of demonstrating their valour at the cost of the poor messengers of those who might have caused the demise of the KPMG giant, who it appears were remunerated handsomely for their shortcomings before they packed their bags.
I guess that is the story of South Africa nowadays.
The infantry lined up to defend the indefensible might just have been viewed as the face of the demise of the auditing and accounting profession.
Why did KPMG consider it more suitable to usher in a black woman to be the face of failure?
Could it not have first tried to salvage the sinking ship instead of giving it a face of those we would like to be associated with good values and a clean break with the patriarchal and white male-dominated era that has overstayed its dominance of the profession?
Could the negative sentiment about the competency of black women professionals that has been portrayed by the untimely ascendancy to the hot seat of KPMG by Nhlamu Dlomu been unwittingly or deliberate caused?
Could the outcomes not have been a setback for the good reputation of women professionals, which some of us try desperately to promote?
It irks me to think about the views of those who might not have known the history of the KPMG’s higher echelons demographics when they see the new leadership and draw conclusions that a black woman might have been the one who failed to steer the ship in the right direction.
Take a look at who were at the helm of the great auditing firms’ mergers of 1984 and 1985 that have culminated in the KPMG we have today, and how long it took to move (it having been at a snail’s pace) to accommodate the most historically marginalised, albeit grossly untimely.
And now it happens at the doors of demise.
In about 18 months’ time when it concludes its investigations and makes findings on KPMG, the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) is most probably not going to focus on the former captains who seem to have cashed in on the misery of KPMG, but on the organisation itself (and I guess correctly so).
Sadly the face of KPMG will be a black woman.
It is a tragedy indeed for our black and capable women’s reputations to be impacted in this way in the eyes of the public.
The IRBA is doing its job, which is professed as, inter alia, “investigating and taking appropriate action against registered auditors in respect of improper conduct”.
Through the awaited IRBA findings and consequences thereof, confidence might unwittingly and unfortunately be lost where it is needed the most in these trying times: confidence in the victims of past racial and gender discrimination whose case we are ostensibly trying to advance.
I do not know why Dlomu accepted the position of heading an organisation that is fast becoming a skunk of the auditing profession and of boardrooms of companies it served.
It is also a tragedy that the time to cast aspersion on KPMG and run for dear cover by its clients is when there is a new broom that seeks to sweep clean but will not be given the opportunity.
I hope there will somehow be an amelioration of the reputational damage that the perceptions of the often misjudging and unforgiving public eye will unleash on the competency of our black women.
Sivu Ntlabezo, Newton Park, Port Elizabeth
FIRING LINE: KPMG chief executive Nhlamu Dlomu appears before parliament’s standing committee on public accounts