MPs on Tuesday read board members and executives of South Africa’s state-owned freight and logistics company, Transnet, the riot act for failing to show up at a meeting of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts last year.
The board members and executives failed to show up at the meeting on December 6 last year, prompting parliament to issue them with a summons.
The officials were forced to take an oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”, before MPs took them to task for their failure to account to parliament as is required by law.
Excuses for their absence during last year’s meeting ranged from one board member being on holiday, another not being prepared and one just having had a baby.
MPs were not impressed. African National Congress (ANC) MP Vincent Smith said the board and executives, some of whom were in Cape Town for the meeting, but left after board chairperson Linda Mabaso told them not to attend, had breached the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
“The severity of what you are faced with … the PFMA talks about imprisonment, section 86 (2) talks of imprisonment and or a fine and I’m not threatening you I am promising you,” an irate Smith said.
“Not another state-owned company going to go down because the board has failed its fiduciary duties.”
Section 86 (2) of the PFMA states that an accounting authority, which in this case is the Transnet board, could be fined and/or jailed “for a period not exceeding five years” if found guilty of an offence, including failing to account to parliament.
Transnet board chairperson Linda Mabaso responded that board members were not available or prepared for the meeting, despite a media release from Transnet indicating that they were. She also cited short notice of the meeting.
The ANC’s Mnyami Booi dismissed Mabaso’s rationalisation saying the chairperson was in a meeting of Scopa in November in which the December 6th hearing was agreed upon. He accused her of defying the Constitution and lying.
“She was talking about 48 hours notice. She was in Scopa and she agreed and that is where the dishonesty is arising,” said Booi.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Ntombovuyo Mente said the board members and management were insulting Parliament and its legislators by lying.
“The board should be declared delinquent and criminal charges need to be laid,” said Mente.
Her Democratic Alliance counterpart, David Ross, said the no show of the board and management of Transnet was not being taken seriously by the implicated parties and that this was disappointing given that Transnet recorded R692 million in irregular expenditure, R21 million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure and millions more in questionable contracts.
“There is an integrity crisis and I think there must be consequences.”
Nthabiseng Khunou, ANC MP, reminded the committee that public money was spent on last year’s derailed meeting, insisting that Parliament, the Hawks and Treasury had to be reimbursed for the costs.
“This is public money and we are going to make sure each and every cent paid by taxpayers are protected,” said Khunou.
Inkantha Freedom Party MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa suggested the money come out of Mabaso’s pocket, saying she had “engineered the collapse of a parliamentary meeting.”
“I missed lectures for two days to come here only for the board chairperson to have the nerve, cheek and audactity to tell us she was in Johannesburg…and to sit here with a don’t care face exemplifies the problem,” Hlengwa said.
“The first person who must walk the plank is the chairperson. In fact she must carry the full costs in her personal capacity…the bottom line is this chairperson of the board is derailing Transnet.”
– African News Agency (ANA)