Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste, (blue tie) in Cape Town on September 5 2018. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES
Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste, (blue tie) in Cape Town on September 5 2018. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

The revelation that the long-awaited PwC forensic report on Steinhoff will emerge only in April, in a much-truncated format, is a blow to accountability in corporate SA.

It was a year ago that Steinhoff declared that it had detected "accounting irregularities" and that CEO Markus Jooste had resigned "with immediate effect". It hired PwC to do a forensic account of what went wrong, and the findings were expected this month. Not only is there now a delay, but the report itself may not be released in full, as Steinhoff seems afraid it could fuel a rash of lawsuits by doing so.

So why did the authorities do nothing themselves? Why did they think it appropriate to sit back and wait for PwC’s report, considering that their interests are very different to Steinhoff’s?

It’s embarrassing. Even though more evidence has emerged — including revelations in this magazine of how Jooste secretly held stakes in companies doing business with Steinhoff nearly two decades ago — there hasn’t been the sniff of an arrest, or an awkward visit to Stellenbosch or Hermanus from the Hawks.

This inaction, as in many similar cases, will surely inspire other would-be fraudsters. After all, if the authorities freeze in the face of SA’s largest corporate fraud, what ethical breaches couldn’t you get away with?