Dogged journalists score accountability win in Steinhoff scandal

Amid the almost daily reporting on alleged government corruption and maladministration, it’s easy to lose sight of the damage wrought by financial crimes in the private sector. Take the Steinhoff scandal. The retail holding company’s list of alleged crimes, rather coyly bundled under the phrase “accounting irregularities” (that’s “fraud” to we mere mortals), cost investors billions. Those investors included the Government Employees Pension Fund, which lost roughly R20 billion when Steinhoff’s share price collapsed, decimating pensioners’ savings. 

The victims deserve real justice, which is why we’re celebrating a big win for corporate transparency in the case. The AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism and Tiso Blackstar (now Arena Holdings), which owns the Financial Mail, emerged victorious in their court bid to gain access to a forensic report by accounting firm PwC about the mess at Steinhoff. The report was commissioned by Steinhoff, which sought to keep the findings private, citing “legal privilege”. AmaBhungane and Arena argued that the forensic report would allow journalists to report accurately and provide the public with the full picture. They won: the court gave Steinhoff 10 days to produce the report. 📰

We at explain are big fans of accountability and openness. Plus, more reporting on the facts might just nudge our National Prosecuting Authority into action; it’s been accused of dragging its feet in the matter. Former Steinhoff CEO and four other former company executives face various fraud charges in Germany but dololo action yet on the home front. Take a leaf out of journalists’ books, NPA, and get to work.