Photo: David Harrison
JOHANNESBURG - Parliament yesterday called on Steinhoff to block any bonuses to its executives.

The joint committees of Parliament described the move as unseemly, given the giant's recent auditing scandal.

Themba Godi, chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, said the planned payment of bonuses was uncalled for.

“It feels so odd that here is a company facing such a massive scandal and it is paying bonuses,” said Godi.

The call came in the wake of reports that the Steinhoff board wanted to pay the head of the audit and risk committee Steve Booysen R2.9million in bonuses and acting chairperson Heather Sonn another R2.9m.

Another executive, Johan van Zyl, was eyed for a R1.5m payment, while former directors Len Konar and Theunie Lategan were due to be paid R500 000 each.

Steinhoff is to hold an AGM on April 20 at which the shareholders intend to make the final decision.

In its annual report, Steinhoff Africa Retail (STAR) said former Steinhoff International chief executive Markus Jooste was paid a total of R121.8m in earnings in 2017, 35percent more than he received in 2016, including a R39.9m annual bonus, R8.3m a strategic bonus and R36.7m in a deferred bonus.

Non-executive director Heather Sonn was paid R1.52m, up from the R548 000 she received in 2016.

STAR’s former chief executive, Ben la Grange, who stepped down in January, was paid R50.1m, up from R38.7m as compared to 2016.

The DA’s Alf Lees said the planned payment of bonuses was controversial.

“People who should have known are now paid extra awards to fix the mess,” said Lees.

Robert Driman of Werksmans Attorneys, who was representing Steinhoff in Parliament, said the board would take a decision at its AGM next month.

“Ultimately the decision as to whether those bonuses would be approved or not is the domain of the shareholders. We will give feedback when the shareholders decide,” said Driman.

MPs were also up in arms after former chief executive Markus Jooste refused to testify in Parliament.

Thandi Tobias-Pokolo of the ANC insisted that Parliament had powers to subpoena anyone to testify.

She said they would not allow Jooste to stall the process.

Louis Strydom of PriceWaterhouseCoopers said they had interviewed some of the key witnesses in the Steinhoff scandal but Jooste refused to co-operate. Strydom said they obtained thousands of documents that would show the financial statements over the past few years.

Driman said he had not been told how to do his work.

“I have not been told by any non-executive director or executives how to do our work. On a daily basis we pick up more information,” said Driman.

“In terms of obstruction, we have not encountered obstruction. We have not been able to talk to Jooste. An invitation was extended to Jooste but there were conditions which were unacceptable.”