A delegation from Transnet failed to appear before the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in Parliament on Wednesday over questionable contracts signed by the state-owned entity.
Both Transnet’s chief executives and board were not present on Wednesday to account for expansions and deviations of contracts at the entity, the latter amounting to more than R427-million.
Expansions under review amounted to R3.6-billion, while irregular expenditure amounted to R549-million.
The Hawks were also present to update MPs on investigations into Transnet cases, but were prevented from presenting after Transnet’s no-show.
“How do we even begin the process if Transnet is not here? We can’t dignify this behaviour,” said Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa.
“They need to hear what is coming down the road, and the Hawks need to hear what the response is. Them not being here is an insult to this committee,” said Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Tim Brauteseth.
ANC MP Nthabiseng Khunou said their behaviour undermines Parliament, while her colleague Thapelo Chiloane said the public needs to know what has happened with the contracts.
They had arranged the special meeting specifically, as Parliament concluded its business for the year last week, they said.
Scopa chairperson Themba Godi said he received a letter on Monday from Transnet board chairperson Linda Mabaso requesting a postponement until January.
She said some of the investigations revealed through the media were still ongoing.
Godi however said the issue of deviations and expansions was separate from those media reports, and wasn’t new. The meeting would thus go ahead as planned.
Mabaso then sent an email on Tuesday evening after office hours, saying they would not be able to attend.
“Part of the [explanation] was that they were unprepared. The matters were quite substantive and they wouldn’t like to come unprepared,” he said.
Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown was also absent, having been put on sick leave until December 24.
‘They are running away’
DA MP David Ross said sending an email outside office hours the night before the meeting was unprofessional and disappointing.
“This has been coming since 2014, this is not a new thing. I find the non-attendance very strange and it should have serious consequences for them.”
Hlengwa suggested Transnet executives foot the bill for the fruitless or wasteful expenditure, as he had seen members from the delegation on his flight from Gauteng.
ANC MP Nyami Booi laid into the board, saying it was setting a precedent they could not afford.
“They think that Parliament is weak and they can play around. But it is clear we are doing a good job, because they are running away.
“They must come. We are ready. You can’t be ready for empty chairs. If they come on Christmas I’ll be very happy. We mustn’t cry, we must just go fetch,” Booi said.
Transnet to be summonsed
Godi said the committee would take the unprecedented step of issuing a formal summons for Transnet to appear the first week of committee sittings in the new year.
“This is a first, for them to decide not to come unilaterally, especially if we are not discussing any new issues. This would be the third time in a row we have discussed these issues.
“They must suffer the indignity of being summonsed.”
They would also ask for a set of bills from Treasury and forward them to the board and the minister, to pay in their personal capacity.
The committee would express its “extreme displeasure”, after having spent most of Monday preparing for the meeting.
Parliament concluded its business for the year last Thursday, and sits again in the new year on January 23. – News24