X

This is not a paywall.

Register for free to continue reading.

The news sucks. But your reading experience doesn't have to. Help us improve that for you by registering for free.



Please create a password or click to receive a login link.


Please enter your password or get a login link if you’ve forgotten


Open Sesame! Thanks for registering.

First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

We need so many more of our readers to join them. The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country. We are inundated with tip-offs; we know where to look and what to do with the information when we have it – we just need the means to help us keep doing this work.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Turbulent waters at Oceana after CFO suspended

Business Maverick

COMPANIES

Turbulent waters at Oceana after CFO suspended

Suspended chief financial officer of Oceana, Hajra Karrim. (Photo: Supplied)

In a curious development, news washed up on Monday morning that the Oceana Group has — ‘on a precautionary basis pending a further process — suspended its chief financial officer, Hajra Karrim’.

Oceana declined to comment further on Monday, sticking to the statement that its chief financial officer Hajra Karrim was suspended and shareholders would be notified when an acting replacement had been appointed.

The news follows a letter just over a week ago alerting shareholders to fishy dealings within the company.

In addition to murky dealings related to the purchase of Daybrook Fisheries in 2015, the letter further referred to:

  • Conflicts of interest arising from relationships within the workplace;
  • Related party transactions involving the purchase by Oceana of supplies related to Covid-19 (masks and rapid test kits) from suppliers associated with Brimstone; and
  • Possible undue influence in proposed changes to be made to the remuneration incentives for management employees. The changes entail the proposed acceleration of the vesting of incentives. This was found to have no substance.

With reference to the conflicts of interest, the company stated that “remedial action was being undertaken in one instance in this regard”. Whether that was a reference to the subsequent suspension of Karrim, or if more heads are going to roll, remains to be seen.

The allegation around Brimstone-associated suppliers selling PPE to Oceana was found to be unfounded, but some improvements to the procurement policy have been recommended.

The board also noted that it would take action on matters related to management style, governance over reporting and managing conflicts in certain areas within the organisation.

Zwelakhe Mngeni, chief investment officer at Benguela Global Fund Managers, says the company’s communications over the past year have been cryptic at best.

“When we, as a shareholder, voted against the Daybrook Fisheries acquisition, we had a meeting with management. They failed to answer questions to our satisfaction, leaving us uncomfortable. On returning from the meeting, we immediately sold out of Oceana,” he says.

High turnover at senior management level over the past three years, combined with the above issues, raises some questions. In February 2018, the chief executive at the time, Francois Kuttel, resigned. Around the same time, or shortly after, he acquired a 75% stake in Westbank Fishing Partners (WFP). WFP owns the boats that supply fish to Daybrook Fisheries and Mngeni believes this was a conflict of interest.

Non-executive director Geoffrey Fortuin resigned in September 2019. Elton Bosch was hired as chief financial officer in June 2019 and tendered his resignation less than a year later, in February 2020. His LinkedIn profile contains no reference to his employment at Oceana — as though it never happened.

Executive directors Lawrence McDougall and Noel Doyle both resigned in 2019. Karrim, suspended this week, was given the job at Oceana only in November 2020. All the churning of positions makes it seem as if there is indeed something afoot.

Shareholders will have to wait for the external audit review to be completed later this week before they get any clarity.

Hopefully, the long-awaited annual results will follow shortly after. The share price was down just over 3% on Monday. BM/DM

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 2

  • A fishy story indeed. My view is that when all is said and done the suspended CFO will probably be shown to be an innocent party that is being bullied by some skelm people. I’m not saying that she won’t take the fall, just that she’s more than likely innocent of fraud, mismanagement or whatever. Will these corporate misdemeanors ever stop?

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted