Steinhoff: Markus Jooste to make rare public appearance, testify in Parliament

Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste will make his first official public appearance, since his abrupt resignation in December over accounting irregularities, when he appears before Parliament on Wednesday.

Last week an agreement was reached between lawyers for Jooste and Parliament for him to appear, after a subpoena was issued to him by the Standing Committee on Finance in August.

Jooste has not spoken to media about what transpired at Steinhoff since he stepped down as CEO in early December. In a short WhatsApp message to colleagues shorty after he stepped down, he said it was time to "move on and take the consequences of my behaviour like a man". 

Jooste had declined an invitation to appear before Parliament at a previously scheduled hearing over Steinhoff in March. Among the reasons given by Jooste’s lawyers at the time, was that the ex Steinhoff chief did not believe he would be able to provide meaningful assistance as he was no longer with the company.

That hearing took place without him. 

His lawyers also said at the time that Jooste was being investigated by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (formerly the Financial Services Board) and was the subject of a criminal investigation by the Hawks. They raised concerns that appearing before Parliament could undermine his right to a fair trial.

In August National Assembly Speaker Baleke Mbete authorised the oversight committee on finance to summons former Steinoff executives to give information regarding "institutional flaws and challenges existing in our financial regulatory framework" and other matters. 

Mbete said the hearing is not a criminal investigation, nor a a civil inquiry to establish a civil liability of Steinhoff or its employees.

Steinhoff's ex CFO, Ben la Grange, testified before Parliament last week.

La Grange blamed Jooste and the firm's auditors for the accounting scandal, saying he was not aware of irregularities until days before the firm's share price plunged on the CEO resignation. 

He told Parliament he believed there was "limited sharing of information" from Jooste to himself about certain relationships between Jooste and third parties which were not disclosed to him or the company.

Wednesday's hearing is expected to begin at 10:00. Jooste will be appearing before a joint sitting of four committees – finance, public accounts, trade and industry, and public administration.

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