22/09/2017 06:00 SAST | Updated 22/09/2017 08:26 SAST

KPMG Man's Trail From Schabir Shaik, Saambou To Sars

Johan van der Walt seemingly has a questionable history with some high-profile audits.

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Schabir Shaik (middle) with his brothers Mo (left) and Chippy (right). KPMG's forensic audit sank Shaik, President Jacob Zuma's original benefactor. The company's forensic investigations will come under scrutiny if Zuma is to be charged with fraud again.

KPMG's flawed and flagellated report into the SA Revenue Service's seemingly nonexistent "rogue unit" wasn't the first investigation in which its senior partner Johan van der Walt has come up short.

He has been castigated in at least two other major investigations in which he took part on behalf of the under-fire auditor.

He admitted during cross examination that he disregarded some pieces of information into the investigation into Schabir Shaik.

In 2008, Judge Willem van der Merwe tore into the forensic auditor in his judgment in the case against three senior Saambou executives after the building society's collapse in 2002, at the time the country's biggest corporate collapse.

And in 2004, he admitted during cross-examination that he disregarded some pieces of information into the investigation into Schabir Shaik, President Jacob Zuma's first benefactor.

Van der Walt was the lead partner on the Sars investigation and authored the KPMG report that Tom Moyane has used to purge the Sars management and the High-Risk Investigations Unit (HRIU), branded the "rogue unit" by The Sunday Times in its series of reports in 2014 and 2015. The newspaper subsequently apologised for its reports while KPMG last week disavowed the parts of the report that referred to the HRIU.

Copy and pasted
Daily Maverick reported in January last year that Van der Walt was instructed by the law firm of Mashiane, Moodley and Monama (on behalf of Sars) to make certain findings in respect of the HRIU. The firm's notes were seemingly copied and pasted as it was received by Van der Walt as KPMG's findings and recommendations. This included the grammar and syntax errors.

In the Saambou judgment, Judge Van der Merwe said it was clear Van der Walt copied the report to the banking regulator and used it as his own. Van der Walt "did not attach the relevant supporting documents to his report... he also did not see or chose to ignore other important documents [in his investigation]," said Van der Merwe.

Van der Walt also made allegations about how the executives abused a share-rights scheme that he was forced to retract during testimony. The judge also took him to task for finalising a report into Saambou even before the charge sheet against the executives was drawn up.

The firm's notes were seemingly copied and pasted as it was received by Van der Walt.

"I already showed that Van der Walt's report was based on De Beer's (Herman de Beer was a KMPG legal adviser) report. De Beer is not a chartered accountant, but a legal expert. He drew up his report with another goal in mind as the one with which Van der Walt was tasked to draw up his report. It is common cause that mistakes crop up in Van der Walt's report that correlates exactly with De Beer's report.

"It is also common cause that documents were shown to Van der Walt [during his testimony] that he never saw which [could have] had a significant impact on his report. It is also common cause that Van der Walt interpreted different documents erroneously. One example: he contended that senior staff and board members abused the share-rights scheme. It was put to him during cross-examination that he was wrong in regards to accused one and three, to which he had to agree. Other state witnesses also criticised Van der Walt," the judge said.

Not 'investigating properly'
Beeld reported Van der Walt conceded one of the executives that he accused of irregularities was not involved in those activities, particularly ones that occurred even before he joined the company.

According to a report by the now-defunct Sapa, Van der Merwe "sharply criticised" Van der Walt "for not investigating the matter properly, ignoring or misinterpreting important documents and incorporating irrelevant detail into his voluminous forensic report".

Four years earlier, in 2004, Van der Walt admitted during cross-examination in the Shaik trial that he ignored some of the evidence contained in the 259,000 documents at his disposal in the investigation into Shaik's relationship with Zuma. This included an affidavit by the Nelson Mandela Foundation which said Mandela gave Zuma R2 million of his own money. This showed the money was for a charitable foundation and not for Zuma's Nkandla homestead.

Van der Merwe 'sharply criticised' Van der Walt "for not investigating the matter properly, ignoring or misinterpreting important documents...

Van der Walt also admitted that some payments could have been what Shaik and Zuma said it was, including a payment which Zuma said was a refund for a loan. He did, however, tell Shaik's defence advocate that he would not have come to a different conclusion had he had sight of the documents he decided to discard.

'Keen interest' in KPMG story
Michael Hulley, Zuma's lawyer, told eNCA's Karyn Maughan that he was taking a keen interest in the developing story around KPMG and the questions around the firm's credibility. Zuma is still embroiled in a fight to avoid prosecution on corruption charges. Van der Walt's forensic work is central to the state case against Zuma.

Another high-profile KPMG investigation that could come under scrutiny is an audit done at Stellenbosch University that implicates South African rugby boss Jurie Roux. According to KMPG, Roux irregularly and illegally transferred as much as R35 million from the university's reserve funds to its rugby club. Roux is being sued by the university to recover those funds.