Transnet Freight Rail. Picture: ANDRE KRITZINGER.
Transnet Freight Rail. Picture: ANDRE KRITZINGER.

Transnet is subjecting its employees to lifestyle audits as part of efforts aimed at cleaning up the state-capture rot at the state-owned freight rail and logistics company.

Transnet is among a swath of state-owned enterprises that have been hollowed out by years of corruption and mismanagement. The utility lost R49bn to irregular expenditure in the 2019 financial year.

However, since the new board was appointed in 2018, and under the chairmanship of Popo Molefe, Transnet has been moving to clean up the entity and take action against those implicated in maladministration and malfeasance.

Earlier in June, Transnet fired group HR officer Nonkululeko Sishi, pipelines CEO Lenny Moodley, and National Ports Authority CEO Shulami Qalinge for misconduct.

Their dismissals were viewed as part of efforts by Transnet group CEO Portia Derby, who was appointed to the position in January 2020, to rid the organisation of those implicated in state capture.

In 2018, the company dismissed its group CEO, Siyabonga Gama, suspended other senior executives and issued summonses to recover the money it lost in the procurement of 1,064 locomotives. Those summonsed include Gama; other former CEO and Derby’s former husband Brian Molefe; and former CFO and Gupta ally Anoj Singh.

Several investigative reports have found anomalies in procurement processes when General Electric, Bombardier, China North Rail and China South Rail were awarded contracts for the acquisition of locomotives worth R54.5bn.

Transnet is also looking to recover money given to consultancy firms Trillian and Regiments Capital, and has been reviewing all contracts at the company, including those for the locomotives. So far R618m of the R700m prepayment made for the maintenance of locomotives has been recovered, and Transnet is still negotiating to recover the VAT paid.

In 2019, Transnet said it had recovered more than half of the R1.3bn it lost through dubious dealings and malfeasance, and was in the process of recovering more through lawsuits against Gama and Brian Molefe.

In a statement on Thursday, Transnet said both its senior and executive management were the first category of employees to undergo the initial phase of the lifestyle audit.

The lifestyle audits form part of a number of initiatives aimed at rebuilding trust within the company “and between ourselves and the public we serve”.

“The lifestyle audit is intended as an additional governance tool to improve transparency and prevent conflicts of interest,” said Transnet spokesperson Ayanda Shezi.

She said the audit was in line with directives issued by the government on security checks for employees in government departments and state-owned enterprises.

The audit, said Shezi, would be rolled out over time, prioritising functions such as procurement, IT and security.

The response to the lifestyle audits had been “overwhelmingly positive” as more than 90% of the top management had submitted themselves to the process. Shezi said the process was independent and confidentiality was assured.

However, in instances where discrepancies were identified, “individuals will be given an opportunity to provide additional information or clarification before any further action is taken”.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za