KPMG South Africa CEO on the state of the audit profession

24 February 2020 2 min. read
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Speaking to CNBC Africa, KPMG CEO Ignatius Sehoole has indicated his desire to restore the “aura of integrity” that surrounded the audit sector when he entered the profession. The executive described how the profession has lost sight of its duty to the general public as a whole. 

Sehoole was brought on board at KPMG officially in May last year to steady the ship, following a protracted period of scandal at the firm. KPMG was among the firms implicated in the Gupta scandal in 2017, which was followed by a period of turbulence for the auditing and advisory sector as a whole.

Many major accounting and advisory firms such as McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company and Deloitte have since been involved in incidences of malpractice, throwing the auditing sector as a whole under a period of prolonged scrutiny. For KPMG, the last two years have been a period of rebuilding.

KPMG South Africa CEO on the state of the audit profession

The firm lost a steady stream of business in the wake of the scandal, but has since changed its leadership and a number of other operational features to minimise risk of similar issues in the future. Leadership at the firm has also been vocal in its assessment of the accounting sector as a whole. 

Chairman at KPMG South Africa Wiseman Nkuhlu said stressed last year that the profession had lost sight of its priorities. Sehoole has now reiterated this sentiment. “Without us having unassailable integrity, we will not succeed,” said Sehoole, who indicated that he has always had a passion for the sanctity of the auditing profession.

“We need to get back to the basics, of saving the public interest. One of the privileges we have as a profession is by law we have been given the right to audit. Not anybody can do that, and that is something that is done in the public interest. We have been given the license to serve the public and that’s first and foremost why we are in profession. That seems, in some instances, like something that the profession has lost sight of,” he said.

“The client-auditor-investor relationship is a very dicey one, because you get appointed by the client, you serve the needs of the client, but in actual fact, the body that you are appointed to serve is the public – the investor public and the regulators who you do not meet or interact with on a regular basis,” he added.