• Steinhoff, which is accused of fraud, has an "ethics hotline". It is operated by KPMG, which is shedding clients in the midst of a conflict-of-interest scandal.
  • Steinhoff had no major ethical problems reported, apparently.
  • Many organisations have outsourced their ethics reporting hotlines to KPMG – but several have recently switched providers.
  • A KPMG-operated hotline is most easily identified by its use of pan-pipe music.

Steinhoff, which has admitted to "irregularities" in its books and has been accused of flat-out fraud, has a functional "ethics hotline" in South Africa.

That hotline is operated by KPMG.

This week KPMG was ditched as auditor by Absa and last month dropped by the auditor general amid an ongoing series of scandals, most recently around conflicts of interest by two of its partners.

As part of its (still valid until the end of August) certification as an external provider of whistleblower services, KPMG is checked against metrics that include "have conflicts of interest been identified and avoided".

See also: KPMG staff are jumping ship amid bonus fears and ‘enormous’ panic

In marketing material KPMG prepares for its hotline clients, stakeholders are encouraged to use such contact centres to report sexual harassment, misconduct, dishonesty – and "financial statement fraud".

Despite having such a facility, Steinhoff's most recent available report on ethics said there had been no significant breaches of its code of ethics.

Many organisations, large and small, use KPMG's services for what are variously described as fraud hotlines, ethics hotlines, or fraud and ethics hotlines. Current customers include Standard Bank, Cansa, and the University of the Free State.

See also: After 18 days of silence from KPMG, Absa just dropped it as auditor

Although these hotlines each have their own unique telephone number and are answered in the name of the organisation to which it is assigned, the KPMG hotlines can be easily identified by their use of a popular instrumental piece as hold music, "Celebration" by Medwyn Goodall. (You can listen to a sample of the song here.)

Other organisations no longer use KPMG for whistleblower services.

Although the University of South Africa (Unisa) still advertises a KPMG fraud hotline, operators say Unisa is no longer a client. Both the Agricultural Research Council and the University of Pretoria switched from KPMG late last year.

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