South African news today

SOUTH AFRICA – August 2008: Markus Jooste, CEO of Steinhoff. (Photo by Gallo Images / Financial Mail / Jeremy Glyn)

Markus Jooste says he’s not responsible for Steinhoff collapse

Markus Jooste says he’s not to blame.

South African news today

SOUTH AFRICA – August 2008: Markus Jooste, CEO of Steinhoff. (Photo by Gallo Images / Financial Mail / Jeremy Glyn)

Markus Jooste, the disgraced former CEO of Steinhoff, accused of embezzling billions of Rands through financial irregularities, made a rare public appearance in Parliament on Wednesday.

It took nine months since the scandal first broke, and Jooste promptly resigned, to get the former CEO into the hot seat.

While still under investigation by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (formerly the Financial Services Board) and the Hawks, Jooste was subpoenaed to appear before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance.

Jooste, flanked by a formidable legal team, had to face some tough questions from members of parliament. While the ex-Steinhoff boss appeared nervous at first – he wriggled his way out of fierce cross-examination with expert guidance from his defence counsel.

In the end, Jooste denied flouting due process at Steinhoff and accepts no responsibility for the complete collapse tied to his untimely resignation in the wake of severe accounting irregularities.

Let’s take a look at some of the questions and answers from today’s parliamentary hearing.

Markus Jooste and accounting irregularities

The Steinhoff collapse is intrinsically connected to accounting irregularities, or at least that’s the official reasoning. These irregularities cost Steinhoff R200 billion in what is regarded the biggest corporate scandal in South Africa’s history. The scandal refers to glaring fraudulent activity under Jooste’s watch.

When questioned on an audit conducted by Deloitte, Jooste said:

“I was not aware of any accounting irregularity in the books of Steinhoff.”

Jooste comments on his final WhatsApp message

“…move on and take the consequences of my behaviour like a man.”

This was the WhatsApp message Jooste sent to colleagues the night before his resignation – it became the subject of discussion during the parliamentary hearing.

And while many consider this evidence of guilt, Jooste denies this, saying big mistakes he made refers to the joint venture Steinhoff entered into witha European retailer in 2007:

“It led to the perception of accounting irregularities … we were not able to complete financial statements on time. The financial loss devastated to a lot of people.”

Jooste says it’s no scandal

Jooste denies that there was any scandal involved, saying:

“The word scandal is for writers of sensation.”

The ex-boss maintained that the collapse was a result of market instability as a result of bad investments, but denies that he, nor any of his staff, was involved in illicit activities, saying:

“I am satisfied in my personal opinion that the audit processes were professional. I did not come here to blame anybody I personally believe all the colleagues I worked with worked in the best interests of the company. They gave their lives, it was part of the daily DNA of the business.”