NWU accounting students get insight into Steinheist saga

The North-West University’s (NWU’s) School of Accounting Sciences, in partnership with Showmax and PKF Octagon, recently hosted the Showmax sensation “Steinheist” documentary series screening, featuring the full story behind the Steinhoff crash.

More than 400 second- and third-year accounting students attended the screening at the NWU’s Vanderbijlpark Campus.

Steinheist, the biggest corporate scandal in South African history, led to the fall of Steinhoff and a loss of R200 billion. The scandal saw the share price dropping by over 96% in 2017 when Markus Jooste resigned as CEO. Investors who invested government pensions into buying shares in Steinhoff lost millions as the value of their assets was significantly inflated.

Nicola Van Niekerk, commissioning editor of the Steinheist documentary, shared insights into what happened at Steinhoff. Her investigative approach and relentless quest for the truth led to an interview with Rob Rose, author of the book Steinheist, which grew into the series currently streaming on Showmax.

Mr Peter Dickson, associate director at PKF Octagon, spoke about the key red flags that were missed and resulted in such a significant repercussion for Steinhoff. He remined students of the importance of responding to ethical dilemmas with strong caution and urged them to seek advice from seniors when confronted with conflicting situations.

Kurt Naicker, chartered accountant and senior lecturer in the School of Accounting Sciences, lead this NWU educational project.

“I thought it would be an exciting initiative to reach out to Showmax and ask them if they would want to participate in an educational project on corporate governance and ethical behaviour to give an in-depth understanding of what the expectation of a newly qualified chartered accountant in practice is,” he explains.

“The lessons to be learned from the documentary are endless. Ethics remains at the forefront of the accountancy profession, and we need to get it right from the start,” says Kurt.

He says the experience proved to be invaluable for many students. “We were inundated with critical questions after the series had been broadcasted and we engaged with many students around the adverse impact of control deficiencies and weak corporate governance.”

Kurt says the School of Accounting Sciences endeavours to deliver ethically sound individuals and robust leaders who can lead the finance profession into a morally sound era where individuals are held to the highest ethos, enabling them to tackle any challenges that come their way. “As our young graduates enter the workplace, we want them to change the narrative and uplift the honour and privilege we must serve in public accounting.

“It is not possible for accountants in or out of practice to be able to execute their duties without first being able to exercise professional judgement in their decision making. As accountants we must exhibit the fundamental principles of integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality and professional behaviour. What became very clear with the Steinhoff saga was the

lack of accountability to these fundamental principles, and Markus Jooste - having been a chartered accountant himself - should have abided by these principles to execute his obligation as a chartered accountant,” he explains.

Prof Heleen Janse van Vuuren, director of the School of Accounting Sciences, says this was a rare experience. “This was a unique event and a first for our campus.”

Submitted on Tue, 11/29/2022 - 14:47