After only eight months as chief executive of the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (Irba), Jenitha John has tendered her resignation.
This follows the dissolution of the board by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in January following reports of infighting over John’s appointment in June last year. Nonkululeko Gobodo and Roy Andersen were appointed by Mboweni as caretakers for a period of three months until a new board is appointed.
Imre Nagy, who has been with the audit watchdog for the past eight years and currently serves as director of inspections at the organisation, has been roped in to replace John. He will serve as acting chief executive.
John has stated that she is available for the next three months to respond to and assist the board wherever necessary.
Although she has not been implicated in the accounting scandal that rocked sugar producer, Tongaat Hulett in 2018, her appointment as the company’s non-executive director left a cloud hanging over her head two years later when she was appointed to head up the audit watchdog.
When she assumed the position as Irba chief executive in June 2020, there was a backlash – including from civil society organisation the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse and the Democratic Alliance, with both questioning the appointment and calling for the decision to be reversed.
In a statement on Tuesday, Gobodo and Andersen said John fully disclosed her non-executive directorship at Tongaat and the “issues” that surrounded it.
The pair have conducted their own investigations into the matter and “can confirm that an independent review was conducted and that the process was found to be compliant with the Irba recruitment policy”.
The Irba caretakers have however acknowledged that her position at the JSE-listed company has created negative perceptions about John and “this has unfortunately impacted her role at the Irba”.
“Consequently, Ms John feels that it would be in the best interests of the Irba for her to stand down as CEO,” Gobodo and Andersen said.
The process for a call for nominations to the board has commenced and advertising for nominations will take place in the next 10 days. The nominations committee will consist of Gobodo, Andersen and acting accountant-general Karen Maree.
The selection process for new board members will “ensure the necessary independence and expertise of the candidates, as well as ensure the necessary and appropriate mix and diversity of skills”, according to the statement.
The selected list will then be sent to Mboweni for final approval. The process is expected to be concluded within the next three months.
“It is important to the country that the public and investors have faith in the Irba’s capability to adequately hold errant auditors to account,” said Gobodo and Andersen.