Race on to con­clude probe into Stein­hoff saga by year end

Afro Voice (Northern Cape) - - INSIDE - busi­ness@the­newage.co.za

THE ea­gerly awaited re­port on what re­ally went wrong re­gard­ing the Stein­hoff ac­count­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties last De­cem­ber will be com­pleted by the end of this year, ac­cord­ing to PwC, the au­di­tors prob­ing the mat­ter.

PwC yes­ter­day said it in­tended to fi­nalise a com­plex foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the af­fairs of Stein­hoff In­ter­na­tional by year­end.

This was ex­pressed by a se­nior in­ves­ti­ga­tor at the firm in re­sponse to a par­lia­men­tary ques­tion. The In­de­pen­dent Reg­u­la­tory Board for Au­di­tors (IRBA) told the par­lia­men­tary hear­ing that the Stein­hoff mat­ter could take at least three years to con­clude a pub­lic in­ter­est in­ves­ti­ga­tion as com­plex as the one it is con­duct­ing into Stein­hoff.

IRBA’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive said that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion out­side of the pub­lic in­ter­est took 18 months. But one which was a mat­ter of pub­lic in­ter­est could take longer.

Em­bat­tled for­mer Stein­hoff CEO Markus Jooste dodged a grilling as he skipped the hear­ing again and has now been given 10 days to make him­self avail­able be­fore the par­lia­ment stand­ing com­mit­tee.

Stein­hoff, which has more than 40 re­tail brands in­clud­ing Con­forama and Pound­land, is in a fight for sur­vival af­ter ad­mit­ting “ac­count­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties” in De­cem­ber, wip­ing about 85% off its mar­ket value and trig­ger­ing a liq­uid­ity cri­sis.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, ac­count­ing scan­dal at the em­bat­tled SA re­tailer Stein­hoff may stretch back fur­ther than pre­vi­ously known.

Stein­hoff’s for­mer CEO abruptly re­signed from the com­pany in early De­cem­ber last year. He has not pub­licly spo­ken to the me­dia since step­ping down. In early Fe­bru­ary Stein­hoff an­nounced that it had re­ported Jooste to pri­or­ity crime in­ves­ti­gat­ing unit the Hawks on sus­pi­cion of fraud.

Stein­hoff act­ing chair­per­son Heather Sonn said that the mat­ter was “now in the hands of the Hawks for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion and po­ten­tial pros­e­cu­tion”.

Since Jooste’s res­ig­na­tion, al­most R200bn in share­holder value has been lost, with Stein­hoff shares los­ing more than 85% in value.

In its first quar­ter rev­enues for this year pub­lished last month, an unau­dited trad­ing up­date for the three months to end­De­cem­ber showed that the group’s global rev­enues had fallen by 5% over the prior com­par­a­tive pe­riod.

The Pub­lic Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion said it was throw­ing its weight be­hind the Stein­hoff board in the wake of its de­ci­sion to bring crim­i­nal charges against Jooste.

In what ap­peared to be an on­go­ing drama around Stein­hoff, it was re­ported last week that the trou­bled re­tailer planned to re­ward its direc­tors for do­ing what it said was an “ex­cep­tion­ally de­mand­ing” job de­spite the com­pany wip­ing out al­most R174bn of share­hold­ers money in an ac­count­ing scan­dal last year.

How­ever, unions were against the move and de­manded pen­sion­ers money be paid back if that was the case. Trade unions said it was good to hear that PwC will wrap up the whole probe be­fore the end of this year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.