Cape Town - Transnet has only vetted seven percent of senior staff who handle supply chain management, despite a 2014 Cabinet directive to vet all employees in that field.
Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama told the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday that only 56 of the more than 750 senior supply chain managers had been screened over the last three years.
Cabinet had directed all government departments and state-owned enterprises in 2014 to vet all supply chain staff with the help of the State Security Agency (SSA).
At the time, Transnet decided to categorise employees and only began the process for the more than 750 senior managers, rather than all staff, and it has not progressed very far to date, MPs heard.
"We are meeting with the SSA later this week to ensure there is adequate and appropriate capacity to enable us to ensure we move forward with this process," Gama said.
"It has taken now more than three years to deal with this process and the rate of completion is dismal and unacceptable."
He admitted there had been "management lapses" and they have set terms of reference to expedite the process and to "regularise" the process.
Billions of rands at stake
Gama's excuse was that the directive was given to his predecessor at Transnet in 2014 and, upon taking up the role permanently in 2016, management had not been told the process had stopped.
"There was unnecessary procrastination, which is why I'm asking the indulgence of this committee to go and regularise this matter.
"There was also no feedback to senior management that the process had been stopped."
MPs were unhappy with the feedback, after requesting last week to be furnished with a list of those who had been vetted.
They said the 7% figure was just not good enough for an entity currently investigating six high-profile cases, where contracts worth billions of rands were under scrutiny.
They also heard last week that labour unions representing the employees were the ones resisting the calls, saying it was an unconstitutional "invasion of privacy".
However, Gama withdrew that statement. It was the first time he had heard of the unions being blamed and it was not their fault, he said.
Failure 'of epic proportions'
ANC MP Nthabiseng Khunou said it looked like staff were trying to hide something, and wanted to be treated with kid gloves.
"This is a public institution. Once you come into a public institution, there are aspects of your privacy that get taken away."
IFP MP Mkuleko Hlengwa added that, by any measurable rate, 56 out of 750 was a "failure rate of epic proportions".
"Even now it is being sanitised. So, we are dealing with 696 employees who don't give two hoots in hell about the directives of their employers.
"Last week it was [supposedly] the unions. Let's not play games here chair[person]. Somebody has not done their job."
ANC MP Ezekiel Kekana demanded that the list they requested be provided to the committee.
"I suspect some of your senior management sitting here in front of me are not vetted."
SSA to be called in
DA MP David Ross said the committee should call in the SSA to understand why the vetting stopped.
Godi added that it was concerning that senior staff did not want to be vetted.
"We need the State Security Agency to give us a sense of their story, and maybe even Cabinet. Those responsible for monitoring, they take decisions, but then what?
"Vetting tests your ethics. If you are not testing those in supply chain management, you are letting the state down."
Gama agreed to ensure that 100% of staff were vetted, and that the list would be provided later on Tuesday.
It was a Cabinet directive and therefore was non-negotiable.
The committee agreed to call in the SSA on Thursday to follow up on the matter.