JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's main opposition Democratic Alliance said on Tuesday it welcomed the decision by Parliament's finance committee to subpoena the former chief financial officer of Steinhoff International Ben Le Grange before it over the company's accounting scandal.

Steinhoff is still grappling with the fallout after it admitted to accounting irregularities last December, leading to a heavy sell-off of its shares while chief executive Markus Jooste was forced to step down.

The DA said Le Grange had initially given an undertaking to appear before the finance committee in a “spirit of cooperation and transparency”.

"However, we have now been informed that he has refused to appear before the finance committee at a scheduled briefing on 29 August 2018 on the grounds that his lawyer is not available," it said.

"This creates the impression that Ben Le Grange has got cold feet and is trying his best to dodge a grilling on his role in what may turn out to be the biggest corporate scandal in the history of South Africa."

"We, therefore, welcome the decision by the finance committee to request the speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to subpoena Ben Le Grange to appear."

The finance committee said Le Grange’s lawyer had informed it that his client was prepared to appear it on August 22, the initial date set for the briefing, but that the lawyer was not available to be in parliament on a new date on August 29.

"The reasons for the postponement are beyond the control of the four committees dealing with the Steinhoff matter; and this includes the fact that Steinhoff representatives who have to appear before the committees have to attend a court hearing in the Netherlands on 22 August and requested a postponement," it said.

It noted the enormous gravity of the Steinhoff crisis, in which billions of rands had been lost with huge consequences for a wide range of people and institutions locally and globally.

"While recognising the importance of the regulators and investigative bodies to pursue the Steinhoff matter, parliament has to exercise effective oversight and hold Steinhoff accountable, not least because of the huge losses inflicted on the pensions of public sector employees and other workers and other strata of South Africa’s population," the committee said.

- African News Agency (ANA)