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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 
South African government urged to review relations with KPMG   

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South African Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Friday expressed deep concern over unethical practices currently surrounding KPMP and urged government departments to review relations with the international auditing firm.

All government departments and their entities must consider reviewing their work programs with KPMG to ensure that their audit processes have not been compromised in any way, and to take appropriate steps if it has been compromised, Gigaba said.

In this regard, the government should explore possible regulations for both the public and private sector in an effort to ensure and preserve the integrity and good governance in the audit fraternity, the minister said.

This move will not only ensure that companies diversify their audit options but also build in a peer review oversight mechanism, said Gigaba.

“It cannot be in the interest of good governance to have one audit firm auditing a company perpetually,” he added.

KPMG has been under fire for immoral and unethical auditing practices in South Africa.

Last Friday KPMG withdrew its report into the so-called “rogue unit” in the South African Revenue Services (SARS).

The report, which cost SARS 23 million rand (about 1.8 million U.S. dollars), delved into the legality of an elite crime investigative unit within SARS in 2007.

The reporot found irregularities in the establishment of the unit accused of spying on taxpapers, including VIPs, through illegal intelligence gathering.

KPMG admitted that its report on SARS lacked sufficient evidence to conclude findings of a “rogue unit” and offered to repay the 23-million-rand fee it received from SARS.

The report was partly instrumental in the downfall of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who was accused of knowing and endorsing the “rogue unit” when he was SARS Commissioner between 1999 and 2009.

Allegations around the unit’s work led to Gordhan being criminally charged. However, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) eventually declined to prosecute Gordhan.

“The developments over the past week surrounding KPMG have reaffirmed our position that there must be mandatory rotation of audit firms,” Gigaba said.

KPMG’s practices have created a bad image and have undermined the reputation of good governance and audit independence in one of the key sectors and institutions in South Africa’s economy, Gigaba said.

Recent developments further highlight the risks posed by market dominance and concentration of a few firms in key industries and offer yet another opportunity for introspections and reforms, the minister said.

He called for a concerted effort by all stakeholders to open up the sector to more players for a more de-concentrated and transformed audit sector.

“We should all join hands in rooting out bad elements that undermine the optimal functioning of our promising economy and its globally reputable institutions,” Gigaba said.

It is therefore warranted and critical that the relevant law enforcements and bodies such as the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) look into this matter to identify and sanction those responsible for any wrong-doing, said Gigaba.

KPMG is also suspected of being associated with the controversial Indian Gupta family which is accused of exerting undue influence over President Jacob Zuma in the appointment of cabinet ministers and the awarding of lucrative contracts with state-owned enterprises, known as “state capture.”

KPMG’s announcement to withdraw the “rogue unit” report came after the conclusion of the company’s investigation into its alleged ties with the Guptas and the handling of the family’s accounts in Johannesburg.

Some of KPMG’s senior officials have resigned over the scandal.

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EARLIER REPORTS:

South Africans mark World Rhino Day with pledge to curb poaching

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africans on Friday marked World Rhino Day with a pledge to curb mounting rhino poaching.

Every year on September 22, the world marks World Rhino Day to raise awareness around the impact of rhino poaching. The theme of this year’s World Rhino Day is Five Rhino Species Forever, in reference to the five species of rhino: the black rhino, white rhino, greater one-horned rhino, sumatran and javan rhinos.

In a message to the nation, Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa thanked all government departments, law enforcement agencies, civil society and all South Africans for their commitment to conserve rhinos, one of the world’s most iconic species.

“Whilst it is important to acknowledge the efforts of government departments and agencies in implementing the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros Approach, at the same time we must recognize the efforts of our communities, the NGO community, business, and all ordinary South Africans who are doing their part,” said Molewa.

South Africa, home to the largest rhino population in the world, bears the brunt of rhino poaching, losing 1,175 rhinos in 2015. So far no official figures have been provided for the rhinos lost in 2016.

For the last decade, more than 6,000 rhinos have been poached in South Africa, according to Wildness Foundation Africa.

Molewa said South Africa continues to have a proud record for species conservation despite the grim impact of the illicit transnational wildlife trade on rhino horns.

“We continue to register successes in bringing poaching numbers down,” said Molewa.

South Africa brought the rhino back from the brink of extinction in the 1960s and today has an estimated 20,000 black and white rhinos.

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South Africa signs agreement to increase access to HIV treatment

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa Friday announced that it had signed an agreement with global partners to ensure inexpensive and effective HIV/AIDS treatment.

This was announced by the South African Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi on Friday. The move would ensure the availability of affordable, generic, single-pill HIV treatment regimen containing dolutegravir (DTG).

The new fixed-dose combination will be available to low and middle-income countries at a reduced price of 75 U.S. dollars per person, per year. Motsoaledi said the move would accelerate treatment rollout and ensure people living with HIV access high-quality antiretroviral therapy.

“The considerable price reductions could yield savings of up to R11.7 billion over the next six years for us, which means that we can initiate additional patients on treatment with the same amount of resources,” said the minister.

South Africa will introduce the new fixed-dose combination of three drugs, Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Dolutegravir (TLD) in April 2018. Patients who follow the treatment are more likely to be virally suppressed, which means that they are not likely to transmit the virus to others, Motsoaledi added.

South Africa is collaborating with the government of Kenya, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

South Africa has 3.9 million patients on HIV treatment as of the end of August.

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