Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Port And Rail Freight Authority Must Survive Corruption Scandal

Transnet Need to Clear Out Dead Wood
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH AFRICA – The row over the suspension of the former Transnet Chief Executive rumbles on after a Court found him guilty last week in the matter of his misconduct over the awarding of procurement contracts. Following a call to Transnet auditor’s corruption hotline in 2008 Siyabonga Gama was suspended pending an investigation into the allocation of a contract to refurbish 50 locomotives to Sibanye Trade Services, without a proper tender process and to a company apparently with no experience in the field.

In addition Mr Gama awarded a security contract to the company run by a former minister, and reportedly close friend, despite the fact it was worth more than double the amount he was permitted to grant for any prospective works. In a recent development Mr Gama’s lawyers have allegedly sent e mails to the media and Transnet executives threatening them personally with legal action should they support his dismissal.

In the answer to a Parliamentary question the Minister of Public Enterprises has ducked the issue by stating she is not entitled to discipline any employee of Transnet, itself a state owned enterprise, even though the incumbent minister is a shareholder representative within the company and she personally supported Mr Gama’s removal.

Mr Gama has apparently authorised his attorney to apply for nullification of the original decision against him but meanwhile Transnet is subjected to the humiliation that goes with the case which is seen by critics as a stereotypical picture of what is wrong with South Africa. To cynical outside observers Mr Gama is simply relying on high flying friends to save his skin despite the outcome of the independent examination of his actions. He has reportedly said the issue was a “minute matter”.

Whether the current management, who seem to have performed well throughout this debacle, can manage to resist the forces in power which will undoubtedly be focused upon them, remains to be seen. If Transnet are able to clear the decks and move the country’s infrastructure and services forward without the stain of corruption upon them, the future for freight movement in South Africa will be decidedly rosier than it currently appears.

Photo: Mr Gama