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CAPE TOWN, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Steinhoff's former chief executive Markus Jooste was not aware of any accounting irregularities when he left the retailer in December, he told a South African parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday which is examining an accounting scandal that rocked the retailer.
Jooste, who is also under fraud investigation by South African police, resigned in December after the company, which has more than 40 retail brands including Conforama in France, Poundland in the UK and Mattress Firm in the United States, uncovered accounting irregularities.
The news hit its share price and left the company scrambling for working capital.
Jooste was instrumental in transforming Steinhoff from a small Johannesburg furniture outfit into multinational retailer.
In his first public testimony about the scandal, Jooste said he never lied about activities of the company and neither sold his shares in Steinhoff nor held a short position on its stock.
He told the inquiry that he lost 3 billion rand ($193 million) due to the company's stock price collapse after the scandal was uncovered.
"I must place on record that when I left Steinhoff on the 4th of December, I was not aware of any accounting irregularities they are referring to," Jooste said.
"I don't blame anybody for what happened at Steinhoff."
Steinhoff's battered shares rose at much as 5 percent as Jooste gave his testimony to the parliamentary committee.
In July, creditors agreed to hold debt claims for three years, removing a imminent threat of default that would have tipped the company into bankruptcy.
Steinhoff's chairwoman a week ago told the parliamentary committee that its board would meet to discuss asset sales to boost cash flow and pay down debt, months after creditors of the South African retailer threw it a lifeline.
On Tuesday, Steinhoff said a subsidiary had agreed to sell a 50 percent stake and related properties in German furniture chain POCO to Andreas Seifert for 271 million euros ($313 million).
Steinhoff last week reported a 2 percent rise in sales to 12.9 billion euros ($15 billion) for the nine months to June 30 helped by a strong showing at its listed African unit Pepkor . ($1 = 0.8640 euros) (Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; writing by James Macharia; editing by Jason Neely)