'Anonymous employees' mount campaign against Transnet

Anonymous employees have mounted a well-orchestrated campaign to bring Transnet into disrepute, the transport parastatal said on Friday.

This followed an article in Business Report alleging there were procurement irregularities at the utility resulting in it overspending by R5,4-billion, acting group CEO Chris Wells told a media briefing in Johannesburg.

“The impression the article gave that Transnet lacked corporate governance processes couldn’t be further from the truth,” Wells said.

Turning to the credibility of the dossier handed to Business Report, Wells said there was “clear evidence” that emails contained in the document had been “doctored”.

“There was an attempt to create the impression that Transnet Capital Projects (TCP) was not managing engineering, procurement and construction management costs and had something to hide,” Wells said.

This demonstrated that the dossier authors had acted “with malice and a lack of integrity” and that their clear agenda was to discredit Transnet’s executive management.

However, Wells said Transnet rejected the allegations of non-compliance with capital expenditure controls and expressed concern at what he called “the malicious manipulation of information”.

Wells told the briefing that capital expenditure was well controlled and before project expenditure exceeded the approved budget, necessary approval had to be obtained through Transnet’s governance structure.

“Approval processes are reviewed by internal and external auditors,” he said.

Wells said he would take the opportunity to disclose Transnet’s performance in the eight months from April 1 2009 to November 30 2009. About R20-billion would be spent by March 31 2010.

He said in spite of an overall decline in global economic activities, revenue for the period grew by five percent.

About R11,1-billion had been spent on capital projects during this period, he said.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation rose 11,6% to R9,3-billion more than the same period in 2008.

Wells rejected allegations that Transnet had used an improper process to re-appoint Ernst & Young as its internal auditors.

“The attack on Ernst & Young is a consequence of their effectiveness and some of the allegations levelled against them are really defamatory.”

Wells said Ernst & Young had been selected as the parastatal’s internal auditor “after a rigorous tender process in which all the major qualifying auditing firms were invited to participate”.

He said the renewal of Ernst & Young’s contract was approved by the board in February 2009.

Transnet is currently involved in a feud over the appointment of a group CEO.

According to Business Report, the dossier containing the allegations was handed to it by a person describing himself as an “emissary” from Luthuli House, the African National Congress’s headquarters.

The ruling party has publicly stated it would prefer suspended Transnet Freight Rail boss Siyabonga Gama to be appointed as group CEO.

However, the briefing was told Gama had not been the board’s choice.

“We put forward three names in June to the Minister [of Public Enterprises Barbara Hogan].

“The board has gone as far as it can and the situation is now with the minister,” the parastatal’s acting chairperson Geoff Everingham said.—Sapa

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