PwC auditor concedes to 'omission of duty' in work done for SAA

A view of SAA airplanes at Cape Town International Airport on February 18, 2020.
A view of SAA airplanes at Cape Town International Airport on February 18, 2020.
Gallo Images/Jacques Stander
  • A partner at PwC South Africa has conceded to an "omission of duty" in work the auditing firm performed for SAA between 2014 and 2016.
  • PwC audited SAA's books for five years between 2012 and 2017, at times in conjunction with Nkonki Inc.
  • In 2017 the auditing of the state-owned company was taken over by the office of the auditor general, which found SAA had "no discipline" in its record management.


A partner at PwC has conceded to an "omission of duty" in the work performed for SAA between 2014 and 2016.

Pule Mothibe was testifying before the commission of inquiry into state capture on Thursday. 

Since August 2018, the commission has been investigating allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud at state entities.

PwC audited SAA's books for five years between 2012 and 2017, at times in conjunction with Nkonki Inc.

Mothibe was PwC's lead auditor for the SAA group of companies between 2014 and 2016.

SAA was placed into business rescue in December 2019, following years of losses and state bailouts. On Tuesday, more than seven months after it went into administration, its creditors voted to proceed with a business rescue plan to cut staff and provide billions more in funding. 

Evidence Leader Kate Hofmeyr quizzed Mothibe on why PwC did not state in audit opinions that SAA had not provided it with some documents and contracts. 

'No discipline'

Testifying earlier in the year, Polani Sokombela, an official in the office of the auditor general, said that when the AG took over directly auditing SAA in 2017, management did not hand over documents to it. SAA, he said, had "no discipline of record management". 

Mothibe on Thursday told the commission that his team had escalated the lack of documents to SAA management and the committee charged with governance. He agreed they could not vouch that certain contracts were above board without access to the contracts themselves. 

In retrospect, he said, this should have been included in PwC's audit opinion, meaning SAA shareholders and the public would have been aware of it.

Mothibe would not concede that this was a "dereliction of duty" when pressed by Hofmeyr, but after some back and forth with Judge Zondo agreed it was was an "omission of duty".

He also referred to it as an "error in judgement".

Earlier Hoymer put in to the commission that the role of auditing firms was vital in understanding corruption and mismanagement.

If the commission found that state-owned enterprises had indeed been involved in corruption, said Hofmeyr, it was important to interrogate why auditing firms had not picked this up.

The hearings continue. 

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