Steinhoff defends failure to hand over report to Hawks

Steinhoff International. File Photo: IOL

Steinhoff International. File Photo: IOL

Published Sep 5, 2019


Johannesburg - Global retail company Steinhoff has defended its decision before Parliament not to hand over the report it commissioned into accounting irregularities which led to its collapse in December 2017.

MPs launched verbal attacks on the company after the Hawks complained that they had not received a report prepared by auditing firm PwC.

It is thought that law-enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies were allowed access to the report by viewing it at the offices of the audit firm in Midrand, under the watchful eyes of the company’s lawyers.

This sparked outrage among MPs, who fired questions at the company over its failure to co-operate with the Hawks, and their interest in the R20billion in government employees’ pension funds lost in the collapse.

Steinhoff chief executive Louis du Preez said there was no benefit for the company if it did not co-operate with the Hawks.

“It seems there’s a feeling that there is benefit for Steinhoff But there are no benefits for Steinhoff financially or otherwise in not co-operating with the Hawks,” Du Preez said.

Board chairperson Heather Sonn said there was never an agreement to hand over the report, as the Hawks and other MPs have claimed.

Sonn said Steinhoff had met with the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority to explain its concerns, and an agreement was reached that it would access the report.

“We granted access (to the report), and it is adequate,” she said.

Du Preez earlier told the joint meeting of MPs that the management team was striving to save the group from litigation. “We have taken a decision to try to save the group. We have taken into consideration the interests of many shareholders, not only in South Africa, but in many jurisdictions,” Du Preez pointed out.

He added: “Handing over the report to the Hawks will influence a host of stakeholders, as there are regulators busy with investigations, inbound and outbound litigation, and we interact with other regulators.”

Du Preez insisted that the access granted to regulatory bodies and the Hawks had enabled them to fulfil their statutory mandate.

“Ultimately we must navigate the path to recover the money and save the group. If the group goes into ­liquidation, there will be no money for anyone,” he said.

Earlier, the committee heard that the company was facing litigation in South Africa, Germany and in the Netherlands. Du Preez earlier briefed the committee on developments in the company, the PWC investigation, litigation and updates of operational issues, including the release of financial statements for 2017 and 2018.

The DA’s Alf Lees said there was still a chance that Steinoff could recover to the point that some shareholders could recover some of their loses.

“Part of the obligation on the Steinhoff board and executives must surely be to work with the regulatory and law enforcement agencies,” Lees pointed out.

Political Bureau

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