Picture: 123RF/Sergey Nivens
Picture: 123RF/Sergey Nivens

Fraud and corruption disguised as accounting irregularities seem to linger in the private sector, to the detriment of our fragile economy.

The forensic report on Tongaat Hulett Sugar released on May 31 that revealed accounting irregularities supposedly similar to that of Steinhoff International nearly a year ago, has sent shock waves through the investment community.

While fraud and corruption at public institutions are receiving attention through the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, private sector companies such as Tongaat Hulett and Steinhoff are getting away with murder, to the detriment of the poor. 

Very little interest is shown by the government to tackle fraud and corruption in the private sector. This despite the fact that Steinhoff was subjected to a parliamentary process that yielded almost no positive prospects to curb future occurrences.

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Recent actions by the government suggest that it is again interested in financial accounting reporting matters. These include the amendments to the Public Audit Act to give more powers to the auditor-general, and the establishment of commissions of inquiry to probe accounting irregularities, fraud and corruption at state institutions. 

Yet not much is being done to strengthen oversight in the private sector. 

Increased scrutiny of the public sector is likely to build momentum through the implementation of the Public Audit Amendment Act and possible successful conviction of the perpetrators of state capture. 

These manoeuvres are making it easier for law enforcement agencies and oversight bodies to identify potential irregularities and deal with them timeously. But what about the private sector? How long are we going to have to watch while private sector fraud and corruption continue?

Thobani Ngcobo