[OPINION] The role of South Africa’s investigative media is now paramount as wave after wave of state capture and Gupta-linked corruption is exposed.
Frankly, I believe KPMG represents the tip of the iceberg, not only among local auditing firms but frankly, in just about any business that has, or hopes to benefit, from government contracts.
Having sat on a number of internal audit committees I know how incredibly difficult it is to dig deep into any big company and that to a large extent, one has to take the word of the CEO and finance director.
Auditing firms however, should be doing the deep digging. And I am sure they do because the presence of a team of auditors in a company for weeks on end should uncover even the slightest bit of corporate sleight of hand.
The trouble is that whatever auditors might uncover, it is the CEO or the board of the company that actually decides whether certain findings actually see the light of day.
Certainly there are still those auditing firms that will stand up to the client and refuse to be involved in any cover-ups. But frankly, many simply do their client’s bidding and shove things under the carpet purely because auditing is big money and they don’t want to risk upsetting their clients to the point where they are not appointed for a further year.
It is human nature. The same situation is found in the advertising industry where agencies just do what their clients want even if it makes no sense and is a cataclysmic waste of money because they don’t want to lose the business.
And so it goes with pretty much any industry one wants to mention. The old story of money triumphing over morality.
It’s all part of a vastly bigger picture that involves corporate shenanigans in the biggest of the world’s economies. The United States is a prime example: lobbyists on Capitol Hill in Washington, for example, ‘pressurise’ politicians to see things their way. Just the other day news reports in the US showed that the pharmaceutical industry alone had more than two thousand lobbyists on Capital Hill.
Add to that the immense pressure put on the US government by the armaments industry, a consequence of which has been Donald Trump selling the Saudis $100 billion in arms and latterly flogging the Japanese and South Koreans billions in armaments to counter the North Korean threat.
In fact, it could be cynically pointed out that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is the most successful US arms salesman right now.
I believe KPMG and the handful of other private sector companies implicated in the current scandal are merely the tip of a massive iceberg.
South Africa’s media is doing a remarkable job in exposing all manner of corporate delinquency and as the pressure on the Zuptas and their cadres increases, every possible effort must be taken to ensure that our media is not muzzled as it was in the apartheid era.
Right now, South Africa’s business confidence index is as low as it was in the days of PW Botha’s Rubicon speech and following the assassination of Chris Hani.
Greedy corporations are as much the reason for this as the blatant looting of state coffers by ANC cadres.
And the only way this can possibly change is for more and more business leaders to follow that handful of captains of industry who have stood up and been counted.
Organised business needs to urgently persuade business leaders in South Africa to turn their backs on short-term profit for the sake of long-term sustainability.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of our investigative media, a number of big, once-respected, names in corporate South Africa will disappear with their tails between their legs. And our media needs to ensure that those who pick up the contracts don’t fall into the same trap
South Africa has shown the world it is capable of destroying a massive global firm such as Bell Pottinger and one hopes that all those multinationals operating here will take note and keep a beady eye on their South African operations.
Follow Chris Moerdyk on Twitter @chrismoerdyk