Union blasts Transnet over R9.9bn worth of irregular spending

24 October 2020 - 09:33
Transnet's financial statements showed billions' worth of irregular spending. File photo.
Transnet's financial statements showed billions' worth of irregular spending. File photo.
Image: Andre Kritzinger

The United National Transport Union (Untu) has fired a broadside at Transnet after the SOE’s financial statements showed irregular spending of R9.9bn in the past year.

Untu general secretary Steve Harris said it was unacceptable that the ports and rail operator continued to misspend taxpayers' money just three years after it had emerged that Transnet had been at the core of state capture in SA.

“It is simply not good enough to say that efforts to improve compliance led to a significant reduction in irregular expenditure arising from new contracts,” said Harris.

“There should be no irregular expenditure at all. This is money that could have been used to create more jobs in Transnet and alleviate poverty in these exceedingly trying times.”

Transnet’s revenue rose by 1.3% to R75.1bn for the year, boosted by a 2.9% tariff increase, the company said in its annual report.

The rise was offset by a 1.3% drop in freight volumes to 212.4m tonnes and a 2.4% decrease in container traffic through SA ports.

Despite saving R4.7bn during the lockdown as a result of fewer employees working overtime and a sharp reduction in consulting fees, Transnet was 10.4% behind budget and nearly 40% below its profit target.

Meanwhile, the lockdown had seen theft and vandalism of infrastructure reach unprecedented levels.

While 547 cases had been handed over to the police for investigation, the company was unable to explain to Untu why so few cases were successfully prosecuted.

“Although Transnet assures us that it is working closely with the SAPS, Untu knows that the existing Rapid Rail Police Unit with its 3,348 officials have zero impact in combating crime,” said Harris.

Large-scale cable theft and vandalism had not only affected Transet but also the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) whose commuter train infrastructure had been devastated during lockdown, leaving it unable to operate trains on more than half its routes.

“To date police minister Bheki Cele has shone in his absence to explain why rail-related crime is reaching unprecedented levels under the nose of his seemingly non-functional unit,” said Harris.

Harris also raised the union’s concern that suspects were not being charged in accordance with the Criminal Matters Amendment Act which provided stiff sentences of up to 30 years in prison for those found guilty of damaging state infrastructure.

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