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KPMG Got Down on Its Knees and Begged South Africa for Forgiveness

South Africa, KPMG is sorry.

Sorry for doing work for the billionaire Gupta family, who has been accused of using their links to former South Africa president Jacob Zuma to influence government decisions and the awarding of government contracts.

Wiseman Nkuhlu

Sorry for making severe auditing mistakes that led to the collapse of VBS Mutual Bank, in which almost 2 billion South African rand ($140.7 million) was stolen from the lender, KPMG reported an ex-partner to police, and several high-profile KPMG clients, including Barclays Africa and the government’s Auditor-General, jumped ship.

Sorry for producing, then withdrawing, a flawed report for the South African Revenue Service that suggested Zuma’s former finance minister ran a rogue unit to spy on political leaders.

Sorry that it had to slash 400 jobs in June and close some regional offices as a result of all the scandals.

KPMG South Africa has changed, its chairman, Wiseman Nkuhlu, said in an open letter published in South African newspapers on Dec. 9. Give KPMG another chance, he wrote.

KPMG has nothing to hide. We have co-operated as required with all official and regulatory inquiries, and will continue to do so.

We had lost sight of our responsibility to serve the broader public interest, and not only our own commercial interests and those of our clients.

We know we made mistakes and we will accept responsibility, as appropriate, for our misdeeds. In return, I would like to make an appeal to South Africa-business, government and the public:— An appeal for your recognition, that KPMG South Africa is today a very different business to what it was 18 months ago.

In the past few weeks, KPMG South Africa has tried to save face by naming Ignatius Sehoole, a former executive president of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, as its new CEO, effective May 1, 2019. The firm also said earlier this month that it would donate 47 million rand in fees it was paid for auditing Gupta-related entities to education and anti-corruption nongovernmental organizations.

Nkuhlu said:

[We] appeal for your permission, for KPMG South Africa and the thousands of South Africans who work for it, to continue to play a positive role in the business community and the life of the nation.

Trust us, Nkuhlu said. But after all of these scandals, you’d have to think that it’s going to take a long, long time before the South African business community and the public trusts KPMG again.