Stories about mismanagement, losses and corruption at state-owned companies (SOCs) have been cascading for years. Yet until recently they did not lead to much action. The delayed responses have imposed a heavy cost on the country. They point to the need for greater openness and more effective triggers for official investigations. For years it has been obvious from media reports, financial statements and some major operational failures that many of the nearly 30 national SOCs were running into trouble. In the past four reporting years almost half made losses in two or more years, and five made no profits at all. Eskom, Sanral and Transnet alone account for almost three-quarters of the collective assets of the national SOCs — and both Eskom and Sanral made losses in 2017/2018. SAA made no profits in the past four years and lost R5bn in its most recent reporting year. That was equal to almost half of all SOC losses, although it holds only 1% of all SOC assets. Losses don’t necessarily ...

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