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Open letter to KPMG global chairman Bill Thomas: Why silent on #GuptaCurse?

Dear Mr Thomas

KPMG declares that bribery and corruption are unacceptable and inconsistent with its values and contravenes its Global Code of Conduct. You state in your lengthy document you expect your employees to act lawfully, ethically and in the public interest (for reference your full policy is added below).

Yet, you have failed to act in the interest of the South African public by obfuscating the truth about relationships between senior employees at KPMG and the Gupta family.

Your colleagues in South Africa have denied any wrongdoing yet KPMG fails to answer basic questions about its work on an irregular KPMG report paid for by taxpayers.

This report has been used by a faction connected to President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family as the primary evidence against former finance minister Pravin Gordhan who was outspoken on the Gupta family’s abuse of state funds.

Gordhan says the Gupta family has plundered at least R100bn from South African state resources. This information is in the public domain.

What are you doing to address KPMG’s complicity in providing a tool with which to unfairly attack a respected and incorruptible former Minister of Finance? 

The KPMG name has emerged with increasing frequency wherever there is the stench of corruption, state capture and irregular state transactions in South Africa. There is a library of evidence in various reports from independent NGOs and in the treasure trove of emails known as #GuptaLeaks, which were recently authenticated as admissible in court by Forensics for Justice.  

Despite the public outcry, the policy of KPMG SA in South Africa is to respond only to fee-paying clients. (See KPMG SA CEO Trevor Hoole‘s stance here.)

Is it your global policy to see yourselves as accountable only to fee-paying clients, and not all stakeholders? How can you see this as aligned with your stated policy of acting in the public interest and in an ethical manner at all times?

Revealed! Taxpayers picked up tab for THAT big fat Gupta wedding – guided by KPMG. More magic available at www.zapiro.com.

At least four of your colleagues attended a Gupta family wedding. Your KPMG office says the firm bore the costs, yet the #GuptaLeaks indicate their stay in expensive hotels at Sun City for three nights to celebrate this wedding were added to the Gupta bill.

Did KPMG pay Sun City directly? If so, why? If not, exactly how much money – and which entity or person – did KPMG pay to cover the costs of four partners for attending this wedding for the full three days?

How did you pay for the costs related to the wedding banquet? And please explain to SA taxpayers how you can describe this as a legitimate business expense.

Why did four KPMG partners attend this wedding? How were they acquainted with the young bride and groom?

How was this attendance, and related costs, justified to your risk committee and if so, did the KPMG South Africa risk committee take the right decision in allowing four people to attend the wedding of a young couple from India?

Do KPMG partners routinely attend the weddings of relatives of clients? Please explain how this type of activity falls within your global Code of Conduct.

Why has KPMG not taken any action against senior employees of KPMG who have been clearly linked in the public domain to financial irregularity and unethical work?

Why have you chosen not to suspend anyone until your internal investigation into the Gupta matter has been concluded?

Why have you chosen to adopt a policy of refusing to answer simple questions about KPMG work for the South African Revenue Service and other entities?

When will your internal investigation be complete? Will you convey the full findings to the South African public in a transparent and comprehensive report?

The KPMG name has become a joke in some circles. You may know that many South Africans now refer to KPMG as “wedding planners” rather than auditors.

Investors in companies audited by KPMG are calling on these entities to axe KPMG because your company is viewed as aiding and abetting industrial scale corruption that threatens to turn South Africa into a kleptocracy.

It is common knowledge that the Gupta family has amassed huge sums of wealth in a short period of time by harnessing its political connections. The KPMG brand appears to have been used to facilitate this criminal activity.

In the light of KPMG links to state capture, financial irregularity and corrupt individuals in South Africa, do you believe it appropriate for KPMG to be a signatory of the UN Global Compact and World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption – Principles for Countering Bribery?

If so, please explain why there is no contradiction between your association with global organisations that fight corruption and your activities in South Africa.

We look forward to your response, in the hope that you can play a leadership role in arresting the rot that has set in here in South Africa as a result of corrupt individuals at corporates and state entities working together.

Sincerely,

Jackie Cameron

Biznews.com

KPMG on anti-bribery and corruption

KPMG’s position is that bribery and corruption are unethical and unacceptable and are inconsistent with our values and our Global Code of Conduct

Our position

KPMG’s position is that bribery and corruption are unethical and unacceptable and are inconsistent with our values and our Global Code of Conduct.

In support of this position, KPMG International has an extensive anti-bribery and corruption program. This includes detailed policies applicable to all member firms and their personnel, as well as training, compliance procedures and an international whistle blowing hotline.

This program represents the baseline for all KPMG member firms. In addition, in many jurisdictions around the world, KPMG member firms supplement this program with additional elements suited to their own home market, such as local hotlines.

KPMG’s values and Global Code of Conduct

The KPMG values are at the heart of the Global Code of Conduct, which defines the standards of ethical conduct required of every KPMG partner and employee.

Our values define how KPMG member firms go about their work. The key value, underpinning all others, is that member firms and their people act with integrity – constantly striving to uphold the highest professional standards, provide sound advice, and rigorously maintain their independence.

Specifically in relation to anti-bribery and corruption, the Code commits all KPMG professionals to:

  • Act lawfully, ethically and in the public interest;
  • Prohibit bribery and corruption by KPMG people;
  • Not tolerate illegal or unethical behavior by clients, suppliers or by public officials; and
  • Follow high standards of ethical conduct around the world, including aspiring to the ten principles of the UN Global Compact (including anti-bribery).

These commitments reflect KPMG International’s position as a signatory of the UN Global Compact since 2002, as well as being a signatory of the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption – Principles for Countering Bribery.

Member firms are required to adopt or adapt the Global Code of Conduct and communicate it to their people.

Our policies

KPMG International has policies that all member firms are required to adopt concerning:

Anti-bribery;

Compliance with laws, regulations and professional standards;

Requirements to report, and consult in relation to, suspected wrongdoing by KPMG firms or personnel, clients or third parties;

Facilitation payments;

Gifts and entertainment;

Political donations;

Charitable donations and sponsorships;

Insider trading;

Arrangements with suppliers and other third parties, and internal accounting controls.

Our training

KPMG member firms are required to provide anti-bribery and corruption training to their people.

Training on anti-bribery and corruption is included within KPMG International’s “Acting with Integrity” course, which also includes modules on areas such as compliance with laws, regulations and professional standards and the Global Code of Conduct.

The training is required to be completed by client facing personnel at a minimum of once every two years, with new hires completing such training within three months of joining a KPMG member firm. In addition, certain non-client facing personnel who work in finance, procurement, or the sales and marketing departments are also required to participate in anti-bribery training tailored to these groups.

Our compliance programs

KPMG International has an integrated monitoring program that covers all member firms to assess the relevance, adequacy and effective operation of key quality control policies and procedures. This monitoring addresses both engagement delivery and certain KPMG International policies and procedures. The results and lessons from the programs are communicated within each member firm and the overall findings from these programs are considered at regional and global levels.

Two cross-functional programs, the Risk Compliance Program (RCP) and the Global Compliance Review program (GCR) monitor compliance with certain KPMG International policies (including, using a risk-based approach, those relating to anti-bribery and corruption) at a member firm level.

Our whistle blowing program(s)

To facilitate the reporting of potential or suspected violations of KPMG policy or applicable laws, regulations or professional standards, including those relating to anti-bribery, KPMG International has a hotline available for KPMG personnel, clients, and other parties to confidentially report concerns they have relating to certain areas of activity by KPMG International itself, those who work for KPMG International, or the senior leadership of a KPMG member firm.

In many cases, member firms around the world also have their own hotlines to facilitate reporting of concerns relating to illegal and unethical acts.

Bill Thomas
Bill Thomas is the global leader of KPMG. Will he act against unethical business behaviour in South Africa? Will he explain why KPMG partners attended the wedding of a young Gupta couple and how exactly they paid for a three-day stay at Sun City to join the celebration? Will Thomas clean up the mess linked to a KPMG report at the centre of a move to push former finance minister Pravin Gordhan to the sidelines?
About Bill Thomas, KPMG Global Chairman

William B Thomas, 49, has been elected Chairman of KPMG International. He will lead the KPMG global network of professional services firms for a 4-year term, effective October 1, 2017, succeeding John B Veihmeyer, 61, who is completing his term as Chairman and retiring from the firm, at the end of September 2017.

Bill Thomas, who was elected to his new role by KPMG International’s Global Council, has served as Chairman of KPMG’s Americas region since 2014 and has been a member of the Global Board since 2009. He has been a leader in defining KPMG’s global strategy and a champion in promoting an inclusive and high-performing culture throughout the KPMG network.

Bill was CEO and Senior Partner of KPMG in Canada from 2009 to 2016, leading the firm in achieving strong growth in the market, and making strategic investments that contributed to expanding the firm’s capabilities. In his 28 years with KPMG, Bill has also held a number of leadership roles in the Canadian firm and within KPMG International, and has served as an audit partner for prominent clients in a variety of industries. 

John Veihmeyer said: 

“I am extremely proud to announce that Bill Thomas has been elected to succeed me as Chairman of KPMG International. Bill brings an exceptional range of skills and experience that will benefit KPMG and the clients our professionals serve. As leader of KPMG’s Americas region and the Canadian firm, Bill has an outstanding leadership record of quality growth, innovation and collaboration. But what distinguishes Bill most are his qualities of integrity, sincerity, passion and personal commitment. I‘m confident that Bill’s authentic leadership will bring tremendous value to KPMG, our people and to clients.” 

Bill Thomas said: 

“It is a great honor to be elected Chairman of KPMG International. John Veihmeyer has been an exceptional leader and role model, who has strengthened KPMG immensely with his commitment to quality and integrity, and his focus on the culture of our global organization. I intend to build on the foundation John has put in place, and help KPMG’s 190,000 professionals around the world to fulfill their potential and bring their best in meeting the rapidly expanding needs of clients. I’m convinced the next few years will be among the most dynamic our profession has ever seen, and I’m excited about the opportunities that are in front of KPMG.”

“South Africa captured by the Zuptas.” More magic available at jerm.co.za.

Keep up with the role of KPMG in corruption here:

The Save South Africa campaign calls on corporate South Africa to urgently review business relations with KPMG in light of ongoing revelations about the audit firm’s central role in facilitating state capture – and to cancel their contracts where possible. It is pushing for ongoing action and pressure against KPMG, as well as full investigations by regulatory bodies into their relationship with the Gupta family.

Question marks also hover over a KPMG report at the centre of a smear campaign aimed at bringing down former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who has fought against the Gupta-Zuma clique. Following questions from BizNews, the Institute of Directors has revealed that it has finally decided to temporarily suspend KPMG from its audit committee.The Institute of Directors also doesn’t want KPMG sponsorship for a golf day. Will the #GuptaCurse soon claim more corporate scalps? 

KPMG South Africa CEO Trevor Hoole is at best a man who has looked the other way as his associates undertake work that enriches and empowers the Zupta clique transforming South Africa into a kleptocracy. The KPMG name has popped up with increasing frequency wherever there is the smell of state capture and corruption. .  Edmunde Burke famously stated: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” As Gordhan and business leaders like Wierzycka tackle the beast head on, others – like Hoole, his team at KPMG and KPMG friends in business – dig in their heels.

Magda Wierzycka is the first leader in the business sector to take a firm stand against the big corporates who have benefited from state capture. Wierzycka said in a recent interview on television that she was prepared to be outspoken, even though this is not the done thing in the corporate sector, as she is fully committed to seeing a better future for South Africa. Meanwhile, KPMG leaders appear to have their proverbial heads in the sand, opting for a “silence is golden” approach to managing their reputation in this crisis

Magda Wierzycka is one of South Africa’s most successful female entrepreneurs, and arguably its most influential in the financial services sector. Wierzycka has also become one of the most outspoken South African CEOs on the subject of corruption and the abuse of the disadvantaged. Earlier this year, her criticism of asset management rival Allan Gray ultimately led to a change in the boardroom of Net1 – a Nasdaq-listed companyaccused of riding on the backs of welfare recipients. Now Wierzycka has taken action against Big Four accounting firm KPMG.

While South Africans react with outrage over the vast and growing body of evidence that multinationals like KPMG and McKinsey have been complicit in the Gupta state capture campaign, the leaders of these companies are sitting pretty it seems. For example, neither the police nor the Financial Intelligence Centreappear to be investigating damning allegations that KPMG was aware of tax evasion and moneylaundering by the Gupta family. What’s more, KPMG CEO Trevor Hoole and team don’t seem to think they owe South African taxpayers a detailed explanation for the involvement of KPMG in Gupta affairs.

Moses Kgosana was about to take the chair at Alexander Forbes Group Holdings when his name emerged in secret emails leaked from the heart of the Gupta family empire. He has been linked to an accounting manoeuvre that facilitated state payment for an extravagant private event. Read more.

Auditing firm KPMG has been thrust into the limelight for its relationship with the Gupta family – Indian immigrants at the centre of a state capture scandal that has engulfed South Africa. KPMG helped the Gupta family divert taxpayers’ funds to pay for an extravagant family wedding at Sun City and went one step further in ripping off taxpayers by helping the family to avoid paying tax on the funds. Read more.

KPMG, a global big four consulting firm, has underestimated the reputational risks of turning a blind eye1 to corruption and state capture. KPMG’s reluctant apology for helping the Gupta family use state funds to pay for a lavish private wedding – and adding in a nifty tax dodge on this cash – has fallen flat. As top financial columnist Ann Crotty notes in the Financial Mail, many in the corporate world are unimpressed with the way KPMG boss Trevor Hoole and his team have handled explosive revelations of the company’s role in helping a previously poor immigrant family from India raid SA state coffers. The KPMG response speaks volumes about the organisation’s corporate ethics. Read here.

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