SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa’s state defence firm Denel appointeds Carmen Le Grange new finance chief saying she will help improve its culture of corporate governance and return to profitability.

This comes ten months after firing the previous CFO, Odwa Mhlwana, after he was found guilty of all disciplinary charges relating to irregular expenditure. At the time the company appointed Wim de Klerk, former CEO of ArcelorMittal SA as acting CFO, while it started the process of finding a permanent replacement.

In her new position, Le Grange will oversee the financial affairs of the Denel group and play a critical role in improving audit results, financial systems and capability, while also working closely with the Auditor-General of South Africa and the investor community.

She is a chartered accountant and graduate of the University of Natal. She served as a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers for more than a decade before founding an advisory consulting practice.

She also serves on the audit committee of the Department of Tourism and on the education and transformation committee of the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors.

In a statement, Denel group CEO Danie du Toit said le Grange’s appointment comes as the group is beginning to see improvements in corporate governance. Government’s recent decision to recapitalise the organisation will put Denel on a sustainable growth path, he said. He described her as a “seasoned chartered accountant”.

“We expect Ms Le Grange to play a leadership role to further stabilise Denel’s finances and implement the measures introduced by the Board to improve performance and restore confidence in the future of the company among stakeholders, partners and suppliers,” said du Toit.

A cornerstone of the country’s once-mighty defence industry, Denel recorded a R1.76 billion (US$119 million) loss in its its first in eight years in 2018 and is among several state-owned enterprises being kept afloat with government bailouts.

In 2016, Denel’s senior management became embroiled in a corruption scandal involving friends of former president Jacob Zuma, the Gupta brothers. In response, banks pulled lending.

It is slowly filling senior management positions – du Toit was appointed in December – and is pushing ahead with a turnaround strategy that could see it begin exiting loss-making businesses and forging new equity partnerships within months.

Le Grange’s appointment comes 10 days after the cash-strapped state arms manufacturer was granted a R1.8 billion (US$0.12m) lifeline.