KPMG still losing staff and clients due to Gupta fallout, say insiders

(iStock)
(iStock)

KPMG is continuing to lose staff and clients in South Africa more than a year after issuing a public apology for some of the work it did in the country, according to people familiar with the matter.

A team responsible for US cross-border transactions in Africa quit because of limited workflow, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The fall off in work and departures are a consequence of the fallout from corruption allegations that engulfed former president Jacob Zuma and his friends the Gupta family last year, the people said.

In addition, Dimension Data Holdings became the latest firm to desert KPMG, passing a R80m ($5.6m) auditing contract to rival Ernst & Young, the people said. KPMG confirmed that Dimension Data changed auditors in June. Dimension Data didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The latest revelations show KPMG is struggling to restore trust since being criticised last year over work done for the Gupta family, who are accused of using political connections including Zuma to siphon off state funds. The firm was also forced to withdraw the findings of a report it compiled for South Africa’s tax agency that was used as evidence in a police probe against former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

“KPMG South Africa has made a number of significant changes to its leadership, governance and audit quality controls and continues to work tirelessly to restore trust in the firm,” a KPMG spokesperson said by e-mail. The firm introduced a number of safeguards and is encouraged by the number of clients that continue to retain its services, the spokesman said.

KPMG was among a number of international companies to be embroiled in allegations of corruption during Zuma’s tenure. Bain & Co. has started an independent probe into its own work for South Africa’s tax service, while McKinsey & Co. and SAP SE have accepted responsibility for improper work done for state-owned companies.

The head of KPMG’s South African office and seven other senior executives quit in September 2017 after an internal investigation found work done for the Guptas fell “considerably short” of the firm’s standards. The Guptas and Zuma deny wrongdoing.

In June, KPMG’s South African unit said headcount slumped to 2 200 from 3 400 a year earlier, with consultations for further reductions underway. It’s lost clients this year including Barclays Africa and South Africa’s Auditor General.

The work previously done by the US cross-border-transactions team will be carried out by partners from KPMG’s global US capital markets group based in New York or London, the KPMG spokesman said.

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