Lynne Brown to consider 'rotating' Transnet's board

Cape Town - Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown on Tuesday said she would consider changing the board of state-owned enterprise Transnet, just three days after Eskom's board changed. 

Brown was speaking at a meeting of parliamentary watchdog the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa).

The committee met on Tuesday to probe corporate governance and the awarding of contracts at the state-owned enterprise. It also quizzed the board as to why it didn't show up to give evidence at a previous committee meeting on December 6 2017. 

Brown told the committee that Transnet, as a whole, is in a decent financial position and is not reliant on state bailouts. 

She also said she is happy that the board has put structures in place to probe corruption. 

Non-attendance a thorny issue

On December 6, 2017, the state-owned enterprise's board did not arrive to give evidence at a scheduled committee meeting of Scopa.  

Brown said the board had probably “underestimated the gravitas” of not appearing before a committee of Parliament.

She said the question of the board being “rotated” should be considered, saying it is “inevitable” that boards would be changed out if they do not uphold the credibility of a state-owned enterprise. 

Brown was speaking three days after Eskom’s board was changed.   

Before Brown spoke, a number of MPs had sharply criticised the board for not being present at the meeting.

Transnet chair Linda Mabaso, in reply, said that while executives at Transnet were ready to appear on December 6, the board members were both unprepared and unavailable.

'Delinquent directors'

Due to their non-appearance on December 6, nine Transnet officials were summoned to appear on Tuesday. 

Mabaso said the board’s unpreparedness and unavailability was due to it having received only 48 hours' notice of the meeting. Some were already on holiday, others could not be reached and one member was in hospital giving birth. “The notice came very late,” she said. 

But MPs dismissed her explanation, saying that the date had been discussed and confirmed at a previous meeting.

ANC MP Vincent Smith said that Transnet could not unilaterally decide to not appear before Parliament.  

“If we can prove you are dishonest, we are going to remove you (from the board),” he said. “We have the power to make you delinquent directors.”

Mabaso admitted that she had stayed in Johannesburg and not travelled to Cape Town on December 6.

However, 13 other executives including group chief executive Siyabonga Gama and one board member travelled to the Mother City and had been ready to attend the meeting. 

On the morning of December 6, however, the decision was made to not attend the meeting as the board members would not be present. 

Fin24 understands the committee will later discuss what, if any, action to take against the board members.   

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