Post Office sitting on mail ‘mountain’

2014-10-31 16:07

There is a “mountain” of undelivered mail at the South African Post Office, MPs heard today.

“We have a mountain of mail that is undelivered that is now quite substantial,” the post office’s public affairs general manager Andrew Nongogo told members of Parliament’s telecommunications and postal services portfolio committee.

Reducing this backlog would require staff to work overtime and on weekends, as well as bringing in staff from head office to help at various mail centres.

However, this could not happen if workers were absent and the labour situation at the post office – where operations over the past three months have been crippled by strikes – was not stable.

Earlier, committee chairperson Mmamoloko Kubayi said highly critical media reports and concerned enquiries from members of the public had prompted today’s meeting, to give MPs an update on the current state of affairs at the post office.

But after listening for more than an hour to senior post office officials and Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele sketch details of another turnaround plan for the cash-strapped entity, Kubayi lost her patience.

“You are appearing before us and you do not even have the decency to tell us you have not paid workers today.

“That’s a wrong, wrong start ... it removes the trust. You start wondering what else in this presentation is true or not ... you are evasive in your presentation,” she said.

A senior post office executive scrambled to explain that workers had been paid, but late, after cash flow problems had led to the entity’s bank requiring a guarantee from the national treasury before releasing the funds.

According to notes tabled at today’s briefing, there has been a steady decline in the post office’s financial fortunes over the past seven years, from a net after-tax profit of R377 million in 2007-2008, to a loss of R359 million in 2013-2014.

Nongogo listed other problems, including that the organisation required a R447 million injection to modernise its antiquated IT infrastructure.

On its finances, he said spending outstripped revenue. The briefing notes show that on September 30 this year, the post office’s expenses for the current financial year were R3.3 billion, and revenue R2.8 billion.

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