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Mailbox: Defending the indefensible. Why it’s too little, too late for KPMG

JOHANNESBURG — BizNews reader Professor Balt Verhagen has taken note of an interesting letter to the editor that appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper recently. In the letter, a certain Shlomo Ben David calls for South Africans to “stop the hounding the auditors”. But did Shlomo, in his letter, try to defend the indefensible? Verhagen shares his views in this reply to that letter… – Gareth van Zyl

By Professor (retired) Balt Verhagen

So Shlomo Ben David (M&G 6-12 October) now berates the beastly South Africans for threatening the internationally so squeaky-clean KPMG, with all its oh so morally upright professionals and hardworking staff, with possible closure and everyone having to find new jobs soon. Let me stick to these elements only, leaving out a much larger and more damning field of players.

Internationally, KPMG is well known for the huge individual fines of tens of millions of dollars and more, collectively with other big players in the field billions, it had to pay to the fiscal authorities where it operates.

This, on account of having blessed the crooked financial manipulations with large corporate clients not only, but also its equally state-damaging, findings.

KPMG’s functions, as that of other similar firms, are not only accounting and auditing, but also advisory. It is this that opens the field to huge financial and political impropriety, also known as corruption.

Of course this results in irreparable damage to the honest, hardworking staff of this and soon other international organisations in the firing line.

They will be thrown onto the labour market with KPMG prominently on their CVs. A particular case, well known to me, is a wonderful woman in the full impetus of building her career with the firm, with high-performing children and a dedicated, hard-working husband.

Ben David, in his blandishments about his perceived persecution by the beastly South Africans, is either too ignorant, more probably too economical with the truth, to notice the wave of local opposition to neoliberal capitalism, that pseudo-religion that has much of the world is still in its grip and allows such wide-spread corruption, bucking the trend right here in our midst.

KPMG has nothing to fear in the line of mega-fines from our present authorities, with whom it is deeply in cahoots.

The truth finally being prised out by predominantly non-state bodies and individuals is so damning that the firm makes grand gestures of  “paying back the fees” in rand numbers comparable to those internationally in pounds and dollars. In this country, these are viewed as bribes that will not wash, even in terms of the firm’s now massive loss of major clients.

Elsewhere, the much larger fines imposed are viewed as collateral damage, with business going on as usual.

My information, Mr Ben David, comes purely from the internet, equally as accessible to the likes of you. I am a retired scientist and academic with a deep passion for this country and its people. I believe in our exceptionalism that time and again has been able to resurrect itself from the depredations of exploitation and its handmaiden, racism; and faith in the inevitability that, come December, we will see the dawn of the latest, hope-giving and constructive phase of our people’s revolution.

I am curious as to your credentials, Shlomo.

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