PwC resigns as external auditor of Oceana

The problems of the JSE-listed fishing group Oceana continue, with yet another resignation.

This time it was the group’s external auditor, PwC, who resigned on Friday. Oceana confirmed the resignation from PwC in a Sens on Monday.

Read: Oceana confirms FSCA investigation

“Shareholders are now advised that late Friday afternoon, May 27, 2022, PwC has resigned as group auditors with immediate effect in respect of the audit for the financial year ended September 2022, due to their assessment of significant doubt as to the existence of an objective objective and transparent communication between the board of directors and PwC given the strained relationship, which they said constituted a material breach to their independence,” the group said.

PwC’s resignation comes ahead of a meeting, which is taking place today (Monday), where Oceana shareholders were to discuss whether to retain PwC as external auditor.

“Shareholders are referred to Sens’ announcement of May 5, 2022 in which, due to the significant number of votes cast against the renewal of the company’s statutory auditors… [PwC], the company has undertaken to consult the shareholders. The consultation is scheduled for today, Monday 30 May 2022,” the fishing group noted in its latest JSE statement.

“In the Senses, the board recognized the strained relationship with its listeners,” he added.

This latest resignation from PwC follows the resignation of former Oceana CEO Imraan Soomra, effective immediately in mid-February.

Soomra’s exit came just weeks after Oceana placed its chief financial officer Hajra Karrim on “preventive” suspension.

Oceana’s troubles have intensified in recent years, with several delays in the publication of its latest financial results (finally published in March), as the group had to set up forensic investigations.

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The forensic investigations were largely related to the group’s fishing interests in the United States in Westbank Fishing LLC, which is owned by Daybrook Fisheries Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary.

At the same time, following the resignation of PwC, the group reiterated its support for the mandatory rotation of audit firms.

“The board supports the principle of mandatory audit firm rotation and recognizes the importance of appointing competent and independent auditors,” Oceana said in its latest statement Sens.

“To this end, and in anticipation of the outcome of the shareholder consultation process, the board had already begun a process to identify a potential alternative to PwC. Discussions with one of the ‘big four’ audit firms progressed and the company is confident that it will be able to appoint new auditors within the required 40 business days and subject to regulatory requirements,” he added.

Besides PwC, other audit giants that make up the so-called “Big Four” in South Africa include Deloitte, KPMG and EY.

Oceana said its shareholder consultation, scheduled for Monday, May 30, “will continue to provide shareholders with the opportunity to engage with the [group’s] Audit Committee on this important matter”.

Shirlene J. Manley