One of the perils of being a state-owned entity in South Africa today is to be the victim of lazy analysis and shoddy reporting.
The easy way out for many journalists is to mark all state-owned entities with the same label. “Maladministration” and “irregular expenditure” are phrases that are used to tarnish all such entities without bothering to examine the facts.
SANRAL was again the recipient of this hurried analysis in an article republished in The Citizen and written by Moneyweb this week. The trigger was the meeting between President Cyril Ramaphosa and chief executives of state-owned entities to discuss issues relating to their mandates.
The intended target was SANRAL – and many of the other SOEs. But in the case of SANRAL the target was missed.
The writer raises the issue that the Office of the Public Protector conducted an investigation into allegations of impropriety relating to the awarding of a contract to the Electronic Toll Collection Joint Venture.
And then she leaves it hanging without informing her readers that allegations – and even investigations – do not automatically mean guilt or adverse findings.
The writer does mention that the Public Protector reported on this issue in January 2018. But, continuing with the trend of lazy analysis, she makes no effort to determine what the findings were because the truth would not fit in with her preconceived conclusions.
The contents of the report can be accessed from the Public Protector. Suffice to say that two successive holders of this office found nothing in the allegations that warranted a full-scale probe.
Similar half-baked yarns are spun about the nature of “irregular expenditure.” In SANRAL’s case it relates to a disagreement we had with the Office of the Auditor General (AG) over the interpretation of the term ‘lowest acceptable price’.
SANRAL used a particular method to evaluate tenders for 11 years with the full knowledge of the AG who has given the roads agency an unqualified audit for 15 consecutive years. However, when this method was declared to be incompatible with the Public Finance Management Act in 2013, SANRAL immediately changed its approach.
This issue was explained in great detail by SANRAL in a statement issued in October 2018 and it was reported on by many credible journalists.
But inattentive analysts continue to take shortcuts and merely attach bad labels to SANRAL whenever the phrase state-owned entities are mentioned.
For the record it should be noted that the CEO welcomed the opportunity to interact with President Ramaphosa and to listen to his vision to create a capable state and place the country on a developmental path.
SANRAL will be a critical player and a strategic partner in the implementation of this new vision. And we will continue to meet our mandate within an organisation that is known for the quality of its governance and its commitment to decisively deal with corruption whenever it rears its head.
Mona is the the General Manager Communications: SANRAL
This was republished as a right of reply.