Monday, October 24, 2022

KPMG adds comic routines to its services

The poet's first job of work is to put bread on the table.

— Yvor Winters, born in 1900

KPMG adds comic routines to its services

Hannah WoottonReporter

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a public servant in need of making even the most basic decision must be in want of a management consultant, and nowhere is that more true than the Department of Defence.

That department spent a whopping $700 million on consultants last financial year(nearly three times as much as the next biggest spender, the Tax Office), surely helping its favourite firm, KPMG, and its fleet of Canberra staff pay rent in the bush capital.

There must be some form of corporate Stockholm syndrome to explain this otherwise extravagant outsourcing of one of the country’s key functions (defending it) to armies of second-class honours graduates inside the big four professional services firms.

But we can barely understand the rationale behind one recent bill from KPMG to Defence.

The department forked out more than $66,000 in 2020 for one KPMG consultant. Not as a bean counter or IT transformation whizz, but, get this, as an MC.

Once the remit of comedians, celebrities or ABC personalities, professional services firms are now cornering the light entertainment market. The unanswered question is no longer: “What do management consultants actually do?” It’s now: “What don’t they do?”

Freedom of Information documents show that guests to nine Australian Defence Force Member and Family Transition days in 2020 were treated to the hosting prowess of KPMG’s unnamed master of ceremonies.

Pitching for the work, KPMG said the consultant in question was the perfect fit “given his wealth of experience as an event master of ceremonies and his enjoyment of the role”.

“[He] is a regular keynote speaker, consultant and facilitator and has a deep background in leadership, high-performance sport, resilience and wellbeing.”

How any of these qualities made him a suitable MC was not expanded upon, but apparently the fact he would “enjoy the role” was justification enough for Defence to cough up his travel expenses too.

To be sure, KPMG assured the man had “received very positive feedback” before, and auditors marking their own work has, er, always worked out well. He also had “availability for all anticipated events”, which spanned from March 4-June 17, 2020, despite KPMG only being asked in mid-February to find an MC.

With MCs typically booking out several months in advance, it’s interesting that no one in Defence questioned why this one’s diary was so free.

Defence’s due diligence was nothing if not thorough – beyond internally noting that “most MCs are celebrities with daily rates ranging from $6000-$8000 per day”, something that was “not considered to be value for money”, most of its procurement approval was an outright copy-and-paste job from KPMG’s pitch for the work!

In that form, which was for “the procurement [of] a qualified and experienced master of ceremonies”, Defence quoted verbatim about the consultant’s “wealth of experience”, “deep background” and “very positive feedback” (again with no apparent evidence), only omitting his “enjoyment of the role”.

It’s hard to know who to feel more sorry for, be it Gordon De BrouwerAnthony Albanese’s public sector reform chief who has the unenviable task of unlatching Defence from KPMG’s teat, or the “ADF members and families” forced to sit through the barrel of fun that is an event hosted by a management consultant. Boy, were his arms tired!

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Hannah Wootton reports on professional services and legal affairs for the Financial Review. Connect with Hannah on Twitter. Email Hannah at

Forced out of KPMG, Chris Jordan gives big four a bruising

Do you think KPMG regrets turfing out Chris Jordan in 2013, after he fell foul of the firm's mandatory retirement age of 58?

The nation's tax collector, recently reappointed for a further seven years, told the World Congress of Accountants at Sydney's International Convention Centre on Tuesday that he never figured he'd be in his current role so long. "When I took on [the Australian Taxation Office role], I'd been the chairman of the Sydney office of KPMG for 12 years and I'd reached the retirement age, which I'm told [is] unenforceable," he quipped, a reference to this paper's coverage of the discriminatory schemes in the contracts of KPMG and EY partners and unofficially in place for those at the top at Deloitte and PwC.

"Seven years at that time seemed like such a long period to contemplate," Jordan added. Well, it's flown by. And little wonder, given his industrious output. Just lately, Jordan has warned accountants they can't exactly promise secrecy to clients (given recent leaks), blamed the industry for the over-claiming of work expenses, and hinted at his office's willingness to take a rather different view of legal privilegethan that adopted by the big four. So busy has he been that outgoing inspector-general of taxation Ali Noroozi used his farewell addressto call for an independent advisory board to curb Jordan's power. "A board would address concerns regarding too much power being concentrated in one individual, the commissioner," Noroozi said. You could certainly say Jordan's been causing his former industry a headache.

"Seven years at that time seemed like such a long period to contemplate," said Chris Jordan. Well, it's flown by. And little wonder, given his industrious output. Dominic Lorrimer

We're all for rejuvenation, and God knows corporate Australia could use more of it. But there is a cost to turfing out your top people once they hit 58. If nothing else, it gives them a good decade (at least) to get even ...

 Forced out of KPMG, Chris Jordan gives big four a bruising