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Scopa plans joint parliamentary hearing on Steinhoff scandal

‘We can call on anybody to appear before us and produce any documentation that we want,’ affirms Scopa chair Themba Godi.

WARREN THOMPSON:  With the implosion of the Steinhoff share price due to possible fraud and corruption, Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) will be calling executives and directors of the company to account before a hearing.

Joining me now to explain the scope and the date of that hearing is the Scopa chairman, Mr Themba Godi. Good to have you with us, Mr Godi.

THEMBA GODI:  Thank you very much.

WARREN THOMPSON:  Just give us an idea as to when the hearings will begin, and what the scope of those hearings will be.

THEMBA GODI:  We have agreed preliminary on January 31 as the date on which we are going to have the joint hearing. Now because it’s a joint hearing, it means that we will need to put our heads together with the other committees – finance, as well as public service and administration – to agree [on] how we seek to approach the matter. But where we are standing as Scopa, we believe that the public entities that invested in Steinhoff, Steinhoff itself, the various regulatory bodies from Sars, to the Financial Services Board, the Reserve Bank – they all need to come and explain to us what is it that happened that led to this massive corruption scandal in this [company].

WARREN THOMPSON:  I presume that the focus will be on the executives of Steinhoff and certainly some of the directors. Are they going to be called – the ones that were at the helm at the time – because obviously there have been changes post what happened in early December, and certainly all of the South African executives and directors?

THEMBA GODI:  From the Scopa perspective, those are the people who may clarify [it to] us. But may I say, because it is now a joint hearing, it means we will need to confer with the other committees. And I intend that this should be finalised during the course of next week so that we have clarity in terms of who should come back.

Clearly we believe that any engagement that does not include Steinhoff would be falling short, because we would not have the rogues being there to explain themselves. As for the PIC, the UIF and all the investors, they are all victims of Steinhoff and it is them who must account. So it is a matter that we will converge with the other colleagues. But from where I am standing I believe those are the people who should come, especially those who were there, who caused this carnage – they are the ones who should be held accountable.

WARREN THOMPSON:  We would be very interested to hear the testimony of those men that were involved there, Mr Godi. We suspect, though, some of them – certainly Marcus Jooste, the previous CEO – may not want to testify. What legal powers does Scopa have to ensure or enforce the appearance of executives, certainly let’s say South African executives, in front of your hearing? Are there powers that can be followed to ensure that these men do actually appear?

THEMBA GODI:  Most definitely. The power that we have as the committee is that we can call on anybody to appear before us and produce any documentation that we want. The … example that we have [is] on January 23 we are going to have Transnet. We have subpoenaed them because, as you will recall, just before we went on recess they snubbed our meeting. And we exercise our power. So Jooste or whomever can be called to come before a committee of Parliament, whether they like it or not. So we are not worried about what the personal attitude of individuals [is], because we know when shoving comes to push, there will only be one elephant in the room, and that will be Parliament.

WARREN THOMPSON:  I’m also interested to know if the brief that’s been discussed across the different departments involved here would include auditors and regulators?

THEMBA GODI:  We want to have everybody who is involved. We have a responsibility as Parliament to be seen to be acting in the public interest in an instance where billions of rands have been lost, thousands of jobs are at stake and a few rogue elements have lined their pockets and they are out there whistling away. So everybody who is involved – we would want to see all of them coming before us.

It is going to be a huge engagement and for my side I want it to be as thorough as possible. I don’t want to have a meeting just for show.

It must be substantive, it must bring out the truth, it must bring out the facts, it must bring out the culprits and we must, arriving out of it, see definite and firm decisive action being taken against those who were the rogues, to send a clear message that corruption – whether it be corporate or public-sector corruption – has no place in the country and impacts negatives on the country.

WARREN THOMPSON:  Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr Godi, and I am sure there are many thousands of investors that are going to be very interested to hear what these executives and board directors have to say. So good luck on that.

THEMBA GODI:  Thank you very much.

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