Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises cut short a briefing by Transnet on Wednesday into forensic investigations and an internal audit, due to the threat of suspension hanging over one of the officials in the delegation.
Officials from the state freight and port company were meant to brief the committee on the progress of forensic investigations into corruption allegations, the group’s internal audit report, and the status of its pension fund finances. In the end the board only received a briefing on the pension fund finances.
Members of the committee were taken aback by the presence of Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama at the briefing. They expressed discomfort at being briefed by an official who is possibly implicated in the very allegation the state-owned company was set to talk about.
Gama is one of three senior Transnet officials who have been served with suspension notices in the wake of initial investigations into the awarding of locomotive contracts.
The officials have until Friday to state why they should not be suspended for the duration of further investigations.
When Gama sought to introduce the delegation ANC MP Zukile Luyenge said he was apprehensive about receiving a briefing from a CEO who had received a notice of intention to suspend him.
“I have to register my discomfort that there could be a real risk that we end up being briefed by people implicated in the investigations where they are investigating themselves,” said Luyenge.
DA MP Natasha Mazzone said Transnet board chair Popo Molefe should rather make the submission to the committee.
“I am most uncomfortable that I have pursued criminal charges against Mr Gama and he wants to give us feedback on the investigations and the very allegations we have pursued charges against him for. Molefe should be briefing us and Gama should not even be here,” Mazzone said.
Molefe, who was also present at the briefing, said the board was fairly new and would need time to interrogate the details of some of the newer allegations that have emerged implicating senior Transnet officials, but that the delegation was prepared to give the committee the submission in its current form.
“We take the guidance of the committee to present as desired. There was no intention that Gama present the submission. We also appreciate that we cannot have people submitting to the committee on matters where they are implicated,” said Molefe.
Committee chairperson Lungi Mnganga-Gcabashe later said the committee concluded it should allow the board space to familiarise itself with the forensic and audit reports and report back at a later time.
The committee proceeded to receive a briefing regarding the entity’s pension funds, however.