Set­back for women ex­ec­u­tives

KPMG dam­age con­trol

The Herald (South Africa) - - YOUR VIEWS -

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

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