Continuous revelations of corruption and state capture have alarmed most South Africans. Society, quite rightly, demands zero tolerance and, as business leaders, we are required to lead from the front.
To this end, we launched our integrity pledge last month, which sets out the values espoused by Business Leadership SA (BLSA) and our members, including having zero tolerance for corruption.
This is the backdrop to our decision to suspend the membership of KPMG, pending a full independent inquiry into its involvement in activities relating to state capture. BLSA must live its values, and that starts with our members. KPMG’s conduct, by its own admission, fell short. It showed poor judgement in a range of different situations and allowed itself to become implicated in work that was part of the fabric of the state capture project. In the process, it caused great harm to South Africa and to the broader reputation of business.
At BLSA, we have no doubt that the vast majority of the 3 600 people working at KPMG are talented, honourable and committed people, and the firm remains an important asset to the country.
Unfortunately, there remain too many unanswered questions and too much public interest for KPMG to simply be allowed to mark its own homework, hence the call for an independent public inquiry. Also, it is not enough for senior people to step aside. If offences have been committed, the offenders should face the force of the law.
The public travails of KPMG stand in stark contrast to the total lack of accountability we witness daily in government and state- owned enterprises. Thanks to whistleblowers and investigative reporting, the public record is groaning with details of corrupt transactions that reach into the highest levels of government. Yet there is a culture of impunity, not of accountability.
There could be no clearer evidence of this than the fact that it is now nearly a year since then public protector Thuli Madonsela sounded the alarm in her State of Capture report and recommended the president establish a judicial commission of inquiry.
Subsequently, the #GuptaLeaks emails have deposited a further huge tranche of incriminating evidence into the public domain. But we wait in vain for any signs of activity, or bona fide intent to pursue these matters, from the responsible bodies, such as the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority.
Corruption is unacceptable, wherever it shows its face.
Bonang Mohale, chief executive of Business Leadership SA