KPMG South Africa received a great deal of negative publicity after the firm was associated with state capture activities. However, since 2017 the auditing firm has made ethics and integrity one of its major priorities in an effort to regain public trust.
Speaking to Dr. Morris Mthombeni, GIBS interim dean, during a Flash Forum, the CEO of KPMG SA, Ignatius Sehoole, said the firm’s aspiration is “to be the most trusted and trustworthy professional services firm in the country. We are doing everything in our power to bring that ambition to life.”
Appointed to head KPMG SA in May 2019, he said leadership was working hard to understand what employees have gone through and become an audit firm that the public is happy to engage and do business with.
Rebuild perceptions of public trust
Sehoole acknowledged that state capture remained an open wound for South Africans and noted that KPMG SA continues to work closely with law enforcement authorities to assist with any information that can expedite cases and result in successful prosecutions.
To restore perceptions of public trust, KPMG SA has placed a renewed emphasis on values and ethics, and there is an expectation that its value system will extend from employees’ professional into their private lives.
“Partners, trainees and employees at all levels must realise that joining KPMG is a lifestyle choice, and they must align with what we stand for. We expect our people to be accountable and trustworthy in their professional, social and political lives, as they represent the company wherever they go,” Sehoole said.
Employees are expected to exemplify and live the firm’s values in their day-to-day lives, representing and indicative of their overall character. “People that do not buy into our value system should not feel at home at KPMG. They should feel uncomfortable amongst us and that they do not belong,” he added.
All partners, associate directors and board members, including independent non-executive board members, as well as their spouses and dependent children, are required to undergo extensive lifestyle audits and integrity checks. These integrity checks include tax compliance and an audit of SARS filings performed by an independent firm that reports its findings to KPMG’s global head office.
“With us, it is all or nothing,” Sehoole said. “The more the good make themselves heard, the more we will overcome this morass that we have seen sweep our country, in particular during the state capture days. It is up to you and me, each and every individual.”