Former PIC CEO Dan Matjila testifies at the PIC Commission of Inquiry. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG - Former Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chief executive Dan Matjila yesterday questioned the role played by Steinhoff International’s auditors in the multi-year fraud that saw the once top 40 company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange plunge more than 90percent since the scandal broke in late 2017.

Matjila told the Lex Mpati Commission appointed by President Ramaphosa to look into the affairs of the PIC that all asset managers including the PIC were “duped” by Steinhoff and that the group’s auditors should shoulder the blame for not picking up the financial irregularities. “As a retail group with a global presence, Steinhoff was considered a sound investment and a darling of the JSE as well as other various stock exchanges around the world. However, the fact remains that PIC’s exposure into Steinhoff represented less than 1percent of the PIC’s assets under management, but material in value,” Matjila said.

“I would like to ask the question that every asset manager who invested in Steinhoff is asking, and that is: where were the auditors when all this malfeasance was carried out? Like any investor, the PIC was and will always be totally dependent on audit reports to make prudent investment decisions.”

Deloitte has maintained that its conduct in looking into the books of Steinhoff was beyond reproach is confident in its conduct as the global retailer’s auditor. Deloitte raised a series of questions about Steinhoff’s 2017 financial statements before finalising its audit opinion and decided, together with the international furniture retailer, that these should be answered by an independent investigation.

An investigation by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that the dealings with companies which had close links to Steinhoff’s former chief executive Markus Jooste were valued at more than 6.5billion (R101.87bn) in Steinhoff’s accounts. This meant that Steinhoff’s accounts were - at least - overstated by this amount. Matjila said it was the PIC’s stance that companies rotate their auditors every ten years to ensure the lines don’t get blurred but the multi-national companies were opposed to the idea.

The commission also looked into the multi-billion rand outlay into Lancaster to buy Steinhoff shares.

Matjila said the purchase of 2.75 additional shares in Steinhoff, facilitated by Jayendra Naidoo, was done so through a structural investment product portfolio within the PIC.

Matjila said it was untrue that the PIC gave Naidoo R9.3bn to buy into Steinhoff. He said the loan extended was not to Naidoo but the special purpose vehicle (SPV) company, Lancaster 101 wherein PIC on behalf of its clients own 50percent, the balance of 25percent to Naidoo’s consortium and the other 25percent to a Black Economic Empowerment vehicle.

A new SPV-Lancaster 102, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lancaster, was later created to raise funds to invest in Steinhoff Africa Retail (STAR) which listed on the local bourse in 2017.

Matjila denied he was friends with Naidoo.

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