On Monday, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) said it wanted to haul the company before the legislature to account and force it to take “decisive action to deal with the wrongdoers”.
The DA called the Steinhoff matter one of the country’s “biggest corporate scandals ever”.
The Gupta state capture project, which Parliament was currently investigating, has brought into sharp focus corporate corruption, after global accounting firm KPMG and software company SAP admitted to flouting rules to aid the controversial family.
Energy Minister David Mahlobo said the party’s elective conference starting on Saturday would discuss rising corporate corruption, saying the organisation “cannot be a spectator to this new phenomenon”.
The former State Security minister was briefing the media on the party’s peace and stability policy proposals to the conference.
“Corruption is a cancer that affects all facets of our lives - both in the public but also in the private sector.
“We will be able to say: ‘How do we strengthen co-ordination so that there is successful prosecution?’ We are also saying that the law must be reviewed,” he said.
Mahlobo said there was generally a softer stance on corporate corruption and this needed to change.
“Private sector corruption is treated very differently. Inasmuch as we want to commend the good work that has been done by the Competition Commission, you’ll remember that the banks have agreed that they manipulated the currency.
“We also know, for example, that there are a number of big companies that corruptly benefited from the 2010 World Cup,” he said.
Last week, Steinhoff admitted to “accounting irregularities” after it had repudiated an August report from a German publication that its employees were being investigated by prosecutors for a 2015 case of possible accounting fraud.
Mahlobo said such companies, instead of being prosecuted, were getting away with slaps on their wrist.
“Instead of being jailed, you just give them a small whack on their knuckles, and give them a fine. And these fines are not actually even appropriate to the issue that they have done,” he said.
He said the party would assess the behaviour of the big corporates.
“Whether it is Steinhoff, whether it’s KPMG or all these other big companies. Remember how when financial institutions and the world economy was collapsed, it started with Anglo, we all thought it was a small issue,” he said.
“But you could see that these institutions were not only collapsing but they were also (having) serious ethical issues, governance issues. Questions were raised to say: Where are the auditors? Where are the directors? And why are these things happening?
“Ultimately the most affected are the poorest of the poor,” he said.
Scopa chairperson Themba Godi said yesterday that he wanted to see the committee taking on Steinhoff.
“The South African Revenue Service (Sars), the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb), the Independent Regulatory Body for Auditors (IRBA), even though this body is ineffective, and the Financial Services Board must urgently investigate,” he said.
“The Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) has a duty to charge all those involved. Corruption, whether perpetrated by the rich or the poor, must be condemned and the perpetrators sent to jail,” Godi added.
Godi said Scopa planned to look at the matter and called on the executives at the company, the Hawks, Sars, Sarb and the IRBA to account to Parliament early in the new year.
“South Africa’s reputation is in the gutter because of political and corporate corruption. All progressive and patriotic South Africans must put a stop to these acts,” Godi said.
The DA’s David Maynier welcomed that the firm’s accounting irregularities were being investigated by external and independent institutions.
“We are concerned that the auditing firm responsible for signing off the financial statements, which in this case is Deloitte DV in Germany, may have turned a blind eye to accounting irregularities at Steinhoff International Holdings NV,” he said in a statement.