The retired partners of KPMG who are still awaiting their gratuity and pension have for many years been a reference point at the United Nations General Assembly. This year was no different except that they got lucky most unexpectedly.
They had booked the presidential suite of The Mark Hotel at 25 East 77th Street, at Madison Avenue, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City, two years ago, even though it had not been completed. It was “Mexican Joe” (Joseph Mendelin Velasquez) who used to run the Mexican arm of KPMG who paid with his diamond encrusted credit card just to seal the deal.
As fate would have it, that hotel suite has become the hottest property in New York at the peak season, bang in the midst of the United Nations General Assembly which started on 12 September, 2017 and attracted Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers from 193 member countries.
Truly, the Mark Hotel deserves a much higher score than “Seven Stars”!! It is located on a beautiful tree-lined block right in the ventricle (heart) of the Upper East Side. It is only one block from Central Park and is firmly within Museum Mile. It is a dazzling advertisement for French designer Jacques Grange whose signature is bold geometric shapes and splashy colours. It also features Mattia Bonetti wall scones and fabulous Paul Mathieu sofas.
In 2015, The Mark Hotel launched its penthouse suite which is on two floors – 16th and 17th Floors. At over 10,000 square feet, it is the largest and most expensive hotel suite in the world (tied with Royal Penthouse Suite at the President Wilson Hotel, in Geneva, Switzerland). The Suite rents for U.S. $75,000 (seventy-five thousand dollars) per night. It comes with five bedrooms, six bathrooms, great room, library, vast majestic dining room, gourmet kitchen and four fire places. It also offers exclusive access to 2,500 square foot private terrace overlooking the City Skyline, Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On the roof is a super telescope from which you can gaze directly into Pyongyang the capital of North Korea.
It was the television stations which went to town with the “BREAKING NEWS”:
“XKPMG Partners are the first occupants of the most expensive presidential suite in New York (and the world).”
The media frenzy was overwhelming. The paparazzi were after us. Respite came when the President of Zimboda offered us a deal which we could not resist. He wanted the suite at any price so he could accommodate his huge official delegation plus his wives and mistresses.
Out of the blues came an even more mouth-watering offer from the King of Saudi Arabia who arrived in New York with his gold-plated 787 private jet. The President of Zimboda went ballistic!
He was ready to pay double whatever the King of Saudi Arabia was offering. “Mexican Joe”, whose skills at poker are legendary, accepted payment in gold bars and freshly minted dollars from Zimboda without bothering to consult the other XKPMG partners. Instead, he distributed copies of “The Game Theory” and “Equilibrum Points in N-Person Games” by John Nash (the Nobel laureate who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994 for his contributions to the field of Game Theory).
Having pocketed our hugely handsome profit, we commenced the search for more modest accommodation. We eventually settled for The Millennium Hilton, Hotel at55 Church Street, New York.
It turned out that President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria was already booked to stay in the Presidential Suite. No problem. We settled for junior suites which were perfectly comfortable. As for the placard-carrying demonstrators (both pro-Buhari and anti-Buhari), the New York Police Department [NYPD] tackled the daunting task with remarkable professionalism – in accordance with the spirit of the First Amendment to the American Constitution to wit: Free Press; Free Speech; and Freedom of Association.
We were just beginning to savour our good fortune when all hell broke out.
These were the screaming headlines on the front page of the Wall Street Journal; Financial Times; New York Post; Washington Post; and virtually every major newspaper. The television and radio stations wasted no time in joining the bandwagon.
The fallout from the KPMG scandal in South Africa has been like a tornado.
Headline: “KPMG apologises to South African MPs over Gupta work”
“The chief executive of KPMG’s embattled South African office apologised at a parliamentary committee for the auditor’s “mistakes” in its work for the controversial Gupta family on Thursday.
Nhlamu Dlomu became head of KPMG South Africa last month, after her predecessor and other executives resigned over findings that the auditor missed “red flags” over the Guptas. She told South African lawmakers that “it’s important for us to acknowledge the mistakes we made in the course of doing our work”.
The Gupta scandal, which involves allegations of improper links between President Jacob Zuma and the family over their business interests, has brought down UK public relations company Bell Pottinger and forced McKinsey, the consultancy, to launch an inquiry into its own activities. Mr Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing.
KPMG allowed a Gupta-owned company to treat a family wedding as a business expense and wrote a report for the South African tax authority that was used to undermine Pravin Gordhan, the former finance minister. KPMG last month retracted the report’s findings.
Ms. Dlomu told the parliament’s standing committee on public accounts that she was “greatly disappointed” by KPMG’s involvement in the report.
The auditor acknowledged “the significance of getting those recommendations and conclusions incorrect,” she added. Lawmakers pressed Ms Dlomu over why the entire report had not been retracted.
“I am determined that these mistakes do not happen again, which is why we have already made a number of changes,” Ms Dlomu said.
KPMG is continuing to lose clients in South Africa over the scandal. One of the country’s top universities, Johannesburg’s Wits, cut ties this week. South African banks are also pushing KPMG for more information on the work it did for the Guptas.
The global accounting network, KPMG International, has ordered an independent inquiry into the work of the South African firm. Ms. Dlomu has said the findings will be made public. “This is not window dressing. The reason we are calling for an independent inquiry is to establish facts,” she told MPs on Thursday.
South Africa’s independent regulatory board for auditors is also investigating KPMG over the scandal. Last month John Veihmeyer, outgoing chairman of KPMG International, apologised “for what went wrong in KPMG South Africa”.
Lesetja Kganyago, the governor of the South African central bank, told the Financial Times this week that “KPMG has got to own up” over its failings.
“They have accepted work they should not have accepted. This is a global firm that is supposed to have global standards and understandably clients will be asking lots of questions,” he said.
Protesters also picketed the Johannesburg office of McKinsey on Thursday, with civil society campaigners criticising the consultant for allegedly securing a contract with Eskom, the state power monopoly, through the influence of a Gupta-linked company. McKinsey has denied the allegations and any involvement in corruption.