Hold directors criminally responsible for corruption under their watch – BUSA

Cape Town - Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) said on Wednesday that SA company directors must he held criminally responsible for corrupt practices taking place under their watch to help weed out graft.

“Where there is evidence of criminal behaviour, regardless of scale, this should be brought to the attention of the relevant authorities, charges should be laid and prosecutions pursued,” said BUSA, a non-profit group that represents organised SA businesses, in a statement. “This includes pursuing personal criminal liability for directors where applicable.” 

BUSA said corporate SA must institute a “zero tolerance approach” to corruption, which it said was hurting SA’s economic prospects, scaring off foreign direct investment and wasting tax rands. 

The group said it expected KPMG SA to “speedily and comprehensively” investigate allegations that its South African unit was involved in corruption. It also called on other businesses to share the results of internal investigations into suspected misconduct with the public, and not keep them secret.  

Be honest

BUSA president Jabu Mabuza said the SA business sector needed to be “honest about its involvement in corruption and tackle the issue head-on”. 

While some private sector companies had tackled graft claims decisively, Mabuza said that “significantly more needs to be done to ensure that good, clean governance and ethical practices are reinforced across the private and public sector".

BUSA’s statement comes in the wake of an acknowledgement by KPMG International chair John Veihmeyer on Tuesday that KPMG had made “serious mistakes and errors of judgement” in its controversial ‘rogue unit’ report it produced for the South African Revenue Service as well as its work for the Gupta family. 

“I sincerely apologise for what went wrong in KPMG South Africa. This is not who we are,” he said on Tuesday evening. 

BUSA CEO Tanya Cohen said “allegations of malfeasance within KPMG” and other companies underscored the need for the South African corporate sector to improve the detection and punishment of corruption. 

“Key to this is the requirement to embed ethics at every level of a business, from the top down,” she said. 

Take action sooner

BUSA said that, while it welcomed the recent steps taken by KPMG, it was concerned that appropriate action “had not been taken sooner given the serious nature of the allegations and the ramifications thereof.”

On Friday, KPMG SA’s top leadership resigned as a body. 

Its former CEO Trevor Hoole said he was stepping down so a new and untainted leadership team could take over. "I believe it is the right thing for me to stand down and allow a new CEO to restore public trust and build a firm that once again sets the standard for quality and ethics,” he said. 

BUSA said it hoped that KPMG would now take “decisive action that will restore confidence in their local operations”.  

“BUSA believes that KPMG is a key professional firm in South Africa and a critical contributor to the broad services provided by the accounting profession in the country,” it said. 

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