Should KPMG South Africa be given a second chance following corruption scandals?

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The chairman of KPMG South Africa on Monday appealed for the firm to be seen as a changed business, following months of efforts to regain public trust after becoming embroiled in major corruption scandals.

In an open letter published in South African newspapers, KPMG South Africa’s executive chairman Wiseman Nkuhlu said the local unit of the audit giant was “very different” from 18 months ago, after a period of significant introspection and change.

“I would like to make an appeal to South Africa-business, government and the public,” he wrote, asking for recognition of its efforts, patience and the chance to play a positive role in South Africa.

“KPMG has nothing to hide,” the letter also said, adding the firm had cooperated with inquiries and would accept responsibility for its misdeeds.

KPMG has apologised repeatedly for its role in some of South Africa’s largest corruption scandals, which have damaged the reputation of one of the world’s biggest audit firms at a time when it is also facing criticism for its practices elsewhere.

Its South African unit lost several major clients and had to overhaul its leadership over work done for the Gupta family, friends of former president Jacob Zuma who were accused of unduly influencing the awards of billions of rand in government contracts. Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing.

It also audited the results of VBS Mutual Bank during a period when almost 2 billion rand ($141 million) was looted from the lender, with the unit reporting a former partner to the police as a result, and came under fire over a report into the South African Revenue Service.

Nkuhlu pointed to a number of things the firm had done to regain trust, including appointing a new chief executive and agreeing to repay 47 million rand in fees earned from Gupta companies, but acknowledged this would not happen quickly.

“We failed by our own standards and we let the country down,” he wrote.

($1 = 14.1565 rand)

Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Mark Potter

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