Molefe did not get approval for massive Transnet locomotive price hike, inquiry hears

Brian Molefe, Transnet’s former chief executive, did not seek required approval from the minister of public enterprises when the price for the acquisition of 1 064 locomotives was hiked by billions of rands, the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Wednesday.

The commission of inquiry — chaired by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — has been investigating allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud since August 2018. 

Tshiamo Sedumedi of MNS Attorneys was testifying on Tuesday about the findings of six investigative reports into Transnet. The group had been asked to probe allegations of irregularities related to tenders by the state-owned entity’s previous board.

The 1 064 locomotives were meant to upgrade and modernise Transnet’s fleet, but the contract has been dogged by allegations of kickbacks, fraud and irregularities after the price increased from R38.9-billion to R56-billion.

Sedumedi told the commission that, according to MNS’s probe, the price increase was unlawful because Transnet had not sought approval from the minister of public enterprises. Only the initial cost of 38.9-billion was approved by the minister.

Transnet falls under the department of public enterprises, together with state entities such as Eskom and Denel.

Sedumedi said that, according to the Public Finance Management Act, Transnet had to obtain approval from the department of public enterprises for the contract price hike.

“We don’t have any record of an application being made for such an increase,” he said.

Sedumedi said that then-CEO of Transnet, Brian Molefe, wrote a memorandum to the group’s board motivating for the increase, but only after the increases had already been concluded. The board approved the proposal.

“It is our view that an ex-post facto ratification by the board does not cure that violation [of the law].”

Molefe left Transnet in 2015 to join Eskom. He resigned from Eskom in 2016 after being implicated in Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report. He was controversially reappointed as the power utility’s group CEO in May 2017, only to have the offer rescinded after massive backlash. — News24

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Jan Cronje
Jan Cronje
Fin24 Journalist based in Cape Town.
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