The PIC informed Parliament that it was taking legal action to force Steinhoff International to release the full report conducted by PwC. Picture: SUPPLIED
DURBAN - The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) yesterday informed Parliament that it was taking legal action to force Steinhoff International to release the full report conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), withheld by the troubled retailer on the grounds of confidentiality.

The PIC board and its senior executives briefed the Standing Committee on Finance on steps taken to recover as much as R20billion lost when the share price collapsed by more than 95percent as a result of accounting irregularities in December 2017.

The PIC invests on behalf of the Government Employee Pension Fund (GEPF) and manages about R2.1trillion in assets. Steinhoff only released a 10-page report in March, but the full forensic report is estimated to be thousands of pages.

It is believed that Steinhoff is refusing to hand over the report on the basis that this could compromise civil and criminal proceedings against implicated persons, including its former chief executive, Markus Jooste.

The PIC’s head of legal services, Lindiwe Dlamini, said in Parliament that court papers would be filed soon in a bid to get Steinhoff to hand over the report of the investigation.

“We did issue a letter of demand to Steinhoff about two weeks ago, requesting this report, failure of which we are in the process of launching our application to compel Steinhoff to release that report. We have to prepare the papers to have all the information we need to pursue the past directors,” Dlamini said.

The Standing Committee on Finance also expressed displeasure with the slow pace to recover the R20bn, which was lost in Steinhoff. The committee said both the PIC and GEPF should take responsibility and follow all the processes to recover the money.

Joe Maswanganyi, the committee chairperson, said the posture of Steinhoff with regard to the PwC audit report was concerning and gave the impression that management seemed to believe that they did nothing wrong.

“We would like to assure them that Parliament will take them head-on with regard to this matter, even if it means that summons be issued to subpoena the report,” Maswanganyi said.

The PIC told the committee that it has appointed Grant and Eisenhofer to institute a class action lawsuit against Steinhoff and its related parties in the Amsterdam Court of Appeals Enterprise Chamber.

Jooste, Ben la Grange, Dirk Schreiber and Stehan Grobler, as well as four other people, were cited in the 15-month forensic probe report by PwC as having been involved in fictitious and/or irregular transactions between the 2009 financial year and 2017 including, share incentives, plus interest as well as legal costs.

The report indicated that income and asset values were overstated by about 6.5bn (R105bn).