Markus Jooste. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Markus Jooste. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste will be in parliament next Wednesday to publicly answer questions for the first time related to the collapse of the global furniture retailing group.

Jooste, who resigned in December 2017, has kept a very low profile and not said anything publicly about the collapse of the group since he left.

His abrupt departure was prompted by the disclosure of accounting irregularities in the group, which precipitated a dramatic slide in the Steinhoff share price, wiping off R190bn, or 95%, of its market value.

The questions he will face from members have been strictly circumscribed, however, in terms of an agreement reached between Jooste, acting secretary to parliament Penelope Tyawa and finance committee chairman Yunus Carrim in the high court in Cape Town on Tuesday.

In terms of the deal, Tyawa agreed to withdraw the summons issued on Jooste to appear at the meeting on Wednesday.

Jooste instead agreed to appear before the committees on September 5. The four committees will continue with their meeting on Wednesday at which former CFO Ben le Grange has agreed to appear.

Regulators will also give an update on their investigations into Steinhoff.

Jooste agreed to appear next week, give evidence under oath and be questioned "to identify any institutional flaws and challenges existing in the relevant financial regulatory framework or any implementation challenges in the financial regulatory framework which might have caused or given rise to the collapse of the value of Steinhoff shares".

He has refused to appear voluntarily before parliament on the grounds that he was no longer CEO and could therefore not answer questions on behalf of the group.

There was also the possibility that Jooste could prejudice himself in relation to any future criminal or civil cases. In light of his refusal, parliament issued him with a subpoena, which he contested before reaching Tuesday’s agreement.

Steinhoff, Jooste and other former directors and executives already face civil lawsuits in Germany, the Netherlands and SA from investors trying to recoup some of their cash.

DA finance spokesperson David Maynier found the terms of the agreement relating to what kinds of questions can be posed to Jooste very strange.

"It is bizarre that Markus Jooste will be now be summoned to assist in identifying flaws and challenges in the regulation of the financial system.

"It’s rather like asking King Herod to assist in identifying flaws and challenges in the regulation of child care facilities.

"It is a deviation from the original summons, which would have required Markus Jooste to ‘give an overview of the circumstances that led to the collapse in the value of the share price and answer related questions’.

"We are going to have to get to the bottom of how this happened," Maynier said.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za

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