Now PwC resigns as Oceana’s external auditor

Resignation follows ‘strained relationship’ and comes ahead of a meeting in which shareholders were to discuss whether to retain PwC.
Image: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

The troubles at JSE-listed fishing group Oceana continue, with yet another resignation.

This time it’s the group’s external auditor PwC, which resigned from the role on Friday. Oceana confirmed PwC’s resignation in a Sens on Monday.

Read: Oceana confirms FSCA investigation

“Shareholders are now advised that late afternoon, Friday May 27, 2022 PwC resigned as auditors of the group with immediate effect in respect of the audit of the financial year ending September 2022, due to their assessment of significant doubt as to whether there was objective and transparent communication between the board and PwC given the strained relationship, which they assert constituted a significant impairment of their independence,” the group said.

PwC’s resignation comes ahead of a meeting, taking place today (Monday), in which Oceana shareholders were to discuss whether to retain PwC as external auditors.

“Shareholders are referred to the Sens announcement of May 5, 2022 wherein due to the significant number of votes exercised against the reappointment of the company’s external auditors… [PwC], the company undertook to consult with shareholders. The consultation is scheduled for today, Monday May 30, 2022,” the fishing group noted in its latest JSE statement.

“In the Sens, the board acknowledged the strained relationship with its auditors,” it added.

This latest resignation by PwC follows Oceana’s former CEO, Imraan Soomra, resigning with immediate effect in mid-February.

Soomra’s exit came just weeks after Oceana placed its CFO Hajra Karrim on a “precautionary” suspension.

Oceana’s troubles have escalated over the last few years, with several delays in publishing its last financial results (eventually published in March), due to the group having to implement forensic investigations.

Read:
Oceana CEO Imraan Soomra resigns with immediate effect
A conflict of interest and possible corruption

The forensic investigations were largely related to the group’s United States fishing interests in Westbank Fishing LLC, which is held by Daybrook Fisheries Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary.

Meanwhile, following PwC’s resignation, the group reiterated its support for mandatory audit firm rotation.

“The board supports the principle of mandatory audit firm rotation and recognises the importance of appointing competent and independently minded auditors,” Oceana said in its latest Sens statement.

“To this end, and as a contingency to the outcome of the shareholder consultation process, the board had already begun a process to identify a potential alternative to PwC. Discussions with one of the ‘Big Four’ auditing firms have been progressed and the company is confident that it will be able to appoint new auditors within the required 40 business days, and subject to regulatory requirements,” it added.

Besides PwC, the other auditing giants that make up the so-called ‘Big Four’ in SA include Deloitte, KPMG and EY.

Oceana said that its consultation with shareholders, planned for Monday May 30, would “proceed to provide shareholders with an opportunity to engage with the [group’s] Audit Committee on this important matter”.

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