KPMG owes us a lot more than an apology

18 September 2017 - 04:32
By The Times Editorial
Image: REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

Audit firm KPMG owes a lot more to South Africa than Friday's apology, the offering of nine executives' heads and the promise to pay back a pile of money.

Consider for a moment the effect of KPMG's "rogue unit" report on the SA Revenue Service. There is a golden thread that runs from this spurious document and its findings - now withdrawn - to the ousting of then finance minister Pravin Gordhan and the political turmoil that followed, sending the economy into a nosedive with credit ratings downgrades.

Billions were lost and tens of thousands of jobs shed as economic growth hit a wall. Today we all live with the ultimate implications of KPMG's actions.

Besides the nuclear-level damage KPMG unleashed with its "rogue unit" report, the cost must still be counted of its work with the Gupta family and their businesses.

Friday's admissions by KPMG barely scratch the surface of accounting to the South African public that is necessary, taking in the scope and scale of the dozens of Gupta endeavours in which the firm had a hand.

Then there is the small matter of how the KPMG report effectively gutted SARS of top professionals, such as Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg, most of whom were purged in the political battle which followed.

The result of that was the torpedoing of major tax crime probes that could have netted billions more for the fiscus.

Remember this when you feel the pinch of the next tax hike because of the shortfall in revenue collections.

Looked at in this context, Bell Pottinger's nefarious efforts to shape a divisive race-based narrative to help shield the Guptas pales in comparison. Bell Pottinger's price for its activities was its continued existence as an entity.

So we have to ask if KPMG's offered pound of flesh measures up to the damage it caused? It does not.