Picture: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE
Picture: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE

The accounting profession watchdog has deregistered the former KPMG auditor responsible for accounts linked to the controversial Gupta family, leaving him with limited prospects of reviving his career.

Jacques Wessels, who was responsible for auditing the financial statements of Gupta-owned Linkway Trading, has been barred from using the CA (SA) designation after the cancellation of his membership, the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) said on Monday.

Wessels previously admitted to being negligent during the audit, passing off costs for the family’s lavish Sun City wedding as a business expense. 

Being stripped of his Saica membership means Wessels, who previously said he would consider starting his own accounting practice if he was barred from practising as an auditor, now has limited chances to succeed at this as well.

In April, he was struck off the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (Irba) register, dashing his prospects of returning to work as an auditor after his suspension from KPMG in 2017. 

Wessels can reapply for Saica membership in five years at the discretion of the Saica board. Otherwise he will only be allowed to reapply in 10 years in terms of Saica by-laws.

The disciplinary committee that sanctioned Wessels said it is in the interest of the public and the profession to hand down the harshest punishment because his conduct is unbecoming of a chartered accountant.

“Mr Wessels had regrettably failed in his duties towards the profession and accepted that he was responsible for causing harm to the profession,” the committee ruled.

Under pressure

The announcement comes while Saica is under pressure to get its house in order following a series of high-profile corporate scandals involving its members, including disgraced former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste and Gupta-linked former Transnet and Eskom CFO Anoj Singh.

The two remain Saica members as the professional body says it is still conducting investigations against them to be able to “formulate charges without ambiguity”. 

Saica CEO Freeman Nomvalo told Business Day last week that there has been pressure from members who want action to be taken against implicated CFOs and auditors. He promised that things will start moving.

“Action will come pretty soon even on those cases that have taken some time,” Nomvalo said.

As custodian of the CA (SA) brand, Saica’s responsibilities include contributing to training accountants, working with other regulators such as Irba on formulating accounting and auditing standards as well as disciplining Saica members who have contravened its code of ethics and accounting standards.

After Irba deregistered Wessels, it referred its decision to Saica. The referral formed the basis for his CA (SA) deregistration.

Nomvalo said that as Saica by-laws forbid it from pursuing disciplinary proceedings against members who are also Irba members,, it took the body this long to act against KPMG auditors who were responsible for Gupta audits and the SA Revenue Service “rogue unit” investigation. KPMG publicly withdrew the conclusions of the rogue unit report in 2017. 

Nomvalo said that as one of the two Saica members who were responsible for the “rogue unit” report was also an Irba member, the body is waiting for feedback from the auditing regulator to decide whether to proceed with disciplinary charges.