FT’s John Gapper tears into McKinsey: ‘You’ve closed your eyes in South Africa’

JOHANNESBURG — There’s no doubt that the Zupta scandal has gone truly global as it is fast becoming South Africa’s very own ‘Operation Carwash’. London’s Financial Times — the world’s most influential business publication — has picked up on the story in a big way. The dramas surrounding Bell Pottinger, KPMG and McKinsey in South Africa have been featured in the newspaper. And the FT has been giving these stories prominent positions. One such example is a column by John Gapper — appearing on the FT website’s homepage this morning. The column tears into McKinsey. There’s no doubt the pressure is building. Gapper is highly critical of the US-headquartered company and questions for how long it can continue to stick its head in the sand. – Gareth van Zyl

By Thulisizwe Sithole

Respected Financial Times associate editor and chief business commentator, John Gapper, has hit out at consulting firm McKinsey & Company over its growing Gupta kickback scandal.

Gapper’s column — which is headlined ‘McKinsey has closed its eyes in South Africa’ — shines a further spotlight on the consulting firm’s controversial links with Gupta-linked Trillian Capital.

The article further appeared in a prominent position on the homepage of the London-based Financial Times on Wednesday morning, making it the latest Gupta scandal article to appear in the hugely influential business publication.

“Being willing to charge an entrenched institution in a fractured country so much money looks awfully like rent seeking, especially when payments of up to $700m were to be split with what it should have known was a dubious consulting partner. McKinsey is full of superior intellects but sometimes you only need to open your eyes,” writes Gapper.

Gapper goes on to question for how long McKinsey will try to defend itself before admitting to wrongdoing.

“The firm still maintains that it behaved correctly and is walking the tightrope of self-justification. I am intrigued to see how long it will take to fall off.

“It says that its own inquiry into its behaviour has not uncovered wrongdoing, nor anything that would require it to report itself to the US authorities under anti-corruption laws. This seems to be setting the reputational bar rather low,” Gapper adds.

Read the full FT article by clicking here.

Gapper is among the world’s most prominent business writers. A short bio of him on the FT.com website says he “has worked for the FT since 1987, covering labour relations, banking and the media”.

“In 1991-92, he was a Harkness fellow of the Commonwealth Fund of New York, and studied US education and training at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania,” according to the website.

Growing Gupta scandal

Gapper’s article will be the latest blow for McKinsey as it grapples with a tide of negative media coverage.

Earlier this year, investigative journalism unit amaBhungane reported that Trillian invoiced Eskom for more than R400m without doing much work. The scandal has since erupted with allegations swirling that Trillian acted as a front company to help McKinsey win mega contracts with Eskom.

A report published just last week by amaBhungane further detailed how McKinsey and their Trillian “ripped” R1.6-billion in fees from Eskom for so-called “turnaround” advice.

McKinsey has subsequently found itself squarely in the crosshairs of angry South Africans while Corruption Watch last week moved to ask the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to investigate the company.

Momentum has further been gathering around McKinsey’s involvement with the Guptas as KPMG South Africa’s CEO Trevor Hoole and 7 other executives dramatically quit last week.

UK PR firm Bell Pottinger has also gone into administration as clients left the company in droves amid its unethical work for the Guptas.

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