NPA head Shamila Batohi defends R30m payment by under-investigation Steinhoff
NPA head Shamila Batohi has again defended the arrangement the state has with Steinhoff, which will see Steinhoff pay R30m for the investigation into criminal activities implicating its previous executives.
During the meeting of parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), Batohi was adamant that the arrangement would not hurt the investigation.
“Steinhoff has also laid criminal complaints regarding certain matters. There was no possibility that they would want to, so to speak, negatively influence the forensic investigation process,” said Batohi.
Early this month, the Financial Mail reported that Steinhoff was paying investigators from accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) R30m to work with the Hawks and the NPA in the criminal investigation of the alleged criminal activities of the company under its then CEO Markus Jooste.
Jooste is the alleged mastermind of the “accounting irregularities” that saw the collapse of the share price of the company, wiping out billions of rand from investors, including workers' pension money through an investment from the Public Investment Corporation.
“I just want to clarify, chair, the NPA did not receive any funding from Steinhoff,” said Batohi.
She said the practice of forensic accounting firms being commissioned by companies to deal with forensic analysis was not unusual.
Batohi explained that PwC was first used by Steinhoff to conduct an "accounting-driven report" into the company's books, but that its mandate "wasn't to look for criminality". However, subsequently this has been expanded to investigate possible criminality, in conjunction with the Hawks and NPA investigation.
Batohi said they were comfortable that the company would not hinder the investigation because not only had it opened criminal complaints, its entire board and all those implicated in alleged wrongdoing had been removed from Steinhoff structures.
She said prosecutors had discussed the matter and there were various safeguards put in place, including ensuring PwC, in terms of Protection of Information Act, would not divulge the evidence in the criminal investigation, even to Steinhoff.
“In addition to that, the findings will be supported by independent objective information such as bank statements, journals, ledgers, databases, e-mails, memos, etc,” said Batohi.
Following the FM article, a number of questions over conflict of interest have been raised by a number of legal commentators, but Batohi told parliamentarians that the arrangement was not unusual.
Also addressing the committee, Hawks head Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya told MPs he was not able to name those implicated in the case.
This was in response to DA MP Alf Lees wanting to know whether there was a case against Jooste.