The answers provided by Steinhoff chairwoman Heather Sonn on what has transpired at the multi-national retailer since an accounting scandal caused the company’s share price to fall over 95% were “wishy-washy” and “a lot of waffle really”, chairman of Parliament’s standing committee on finance Yunus Carrim said on Wednesday.
Sonn and commercial director Louis du Preez were briefing MPs on progress made since the accounting irregularities were uncovered and said they had managed to avert a total collapse of a company through “standstill agreements” with banks so the company does not default on loans.
“What they allow for, together with our creditors arrangements, for us to carry on with the process of bringing down our debt.”
MPs were not satisfied, demanding Sonn name those responsible for the crisis besides Markus Jooste, the disgraced former chief executive who resigned shortly after the scandal broke.
“Ms Sonn, it’s disappointing, it’s bordering on demoralising and we think you are not fully realising the gravity of the situation,” said Carrim.
Sonn denied trying to frustrate the parliamentary process, saying she was balancing the right of MPs to answers against not “jeopardising criminal processes” that were underway.
“Please don’t see what I’m doing here as an attempt to try and withhold anything.”
She said other individuals’ contracts were suspended, including that of former chief financial officer Ben La Grange, who is due to testify before the MPs later in the day.
Jooste was also due to testify on Wednesday but his testimony has been postponed to next week after he challenged a subpoena issued by Parliament. An agreement was reached in court that he appear on September 5.