Tag: Post Office

The South African Post Office (Sapo) wants courier companies to pay it an “agency fee” for the privilege of delivering parcels that weigh less than a kilogram. This is according to an article by MyBroadband.

The beleaguered parastatal revealed its plan in an invitation to courier companies to submit their “expression of interest” to be appointed agents of the Post Office to deliver packages. According to the Expression of Interest document, which MyBroadband saw, the Post Office wants to appoint service providers to render courier services as its agents.

Overview of the situation thus far:

  • The Post Office previously approached the sector regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), and laid a complaint against PostNet
  • This had far-reaching consequences for South Africa’s whole private courier industry, as the Post Office argued that it has a state-sanctioned monopoly over deliveries under 1kg
  • Icasa referred the complaint to its Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC)
  • The CCC ruled in the Post Office’s favour, citing the Postal Services Act 124 of 1998: only a licensed postal services operator may render certain reserved postal services
  • “Reserved services” include delivery of small parcels with specific dimensions and a mass of up to 1kg
  • PostNet approached the Gauteng High Court to challenge the CCC’s ruling
  • The Gauteng High Court granted an interdict to allow it and other couriers to continue offering their services until the matter was heard in court
  • The Post Office would not subcontract courier companies to deliver parcels — they would simply pay SAPO’s agency fee to carry on their business as usual.

Although the matter is still before the court, the Post Office said it reserves the right to invite formal proposals from those courier services providers that responded to its request for expressions of interest. It also reserved its right to cancel the request at any time and to not appoint any agents to act on its behalf.

South African Post Office on the edge

The South African Post Office is experiencing a meltdown with branches unable to serve clients, service providers not being paid, and mass branch shutdowns, according to a recent article by MyBroadband.

  • In April 2021, Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke revealed that the South African Post Office is commercially insolvent
  • In the 2019/2020 financial year, the Post Office incurred losses of over R1.7-billion
  • Its liabilities exceeded its assets by R1.5-billion
  • Most Post Offices had signs about service delivery problems in their windows
  • Some branches have no electricity
  • Vehicle license services are often offline
  • Employees allege that pension fund deductions are taken from their salaries but that these deductions are not paid into these pension funds
  • Landlords and service providers are struggling to get money from the Post Office
  • Unpaid invoices total R638-million
  • SA Post Office CEO Nomkhita Mona blamed the Post Office’s dire financial situation on an outdated business model and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

Source: MyBroadband

The South African Post Office (SAPO) is on the verge of financial collapse and has closed numerous branches after failing to pay rent.

A recent presentation at the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee revealed just how big a financial mess the Post Office is in.

Over the last three months, the Post Office posted a net loss of R429 million, while its year-to-date net loss increased to R1.354 billion.

“The year-to-date revenue recovery remains sluggish and insufficient to meet all operating costs,” the SAPO said.

“The revenue shortfall contributes to cash deficits to pay suppliers and service providers, including employee benefit contributions.”

The South African Post Office’s creditors and accruals as of 30 September 2020 increased to R1.774 billion.

One of the results of this financial crunch is that the SA Post Office is not paying rent and has closed around 55 branches because of arrears.

Some landlords have even seized equipment and kicked out the Post Office from their malls for not paying rent.

Notices on the doors of many SA Post Office branches now state “Closed until further notice” without a clear indication of where people can now get services from.

The SA Post Office previously told MyBroadband it is in discussions with the landlords to resolve the disputes with the intention of re-opening the branches.

Employees are also suffering. Pension fund and medical aid contributions are deducted from workers’ salaries, but this money is not paid over to the relevant institutions.

David Mangena, general secretary of the South African Postal Workers Union, told Rapport the Post Office has failed to make payments for some workers as far back as March 2020.

Mangena added that communication with the institution has broken down and that they had to hear via the media about the new Post Office CEO.

The financial collapse of the Post Office should, however, not come as a surprise.

DA’s shadow deputy minister of communications and digital technologies, Cameron MacKenzie, warned earlier this year the institution was on the brink of collapse.

MacKenzie said the Post Office was struggling with unpaid rentals, desperate suppliers, postal backlogs, and broken ICT systems.

The SAPO, MacKenzie said, is facing bankruptcy despite receiving R8 billion in bailouts since 2014.

He said in the absence of any further funding and expenses far exceeding revenue, the Post Office is resorting to the only means to stay afloat – stop paying creditors.

MacKenzie urged the government to start implementing productive public-private partnerships and social compacts to save the SA Post Office.

The SA Post Office is hanging its hat on its newly appointed CEO, Nomkhita Mona, to solve these problems.

Mona has served as the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber since December 2017, following three years at the helm of the South African Forestry Company (SAFCOL).

She has also been CEO at various other organisations – including The UDDI, Inkezo Land Company, and the Eastern Cape Tourism Board.

MyBroadband asked the SA Office for comment about its financial challenges, but it did not respond by the time of publication.


Postbank forced to replace 12m bank cards

Source: MyBroadband

Postbank needs to replace 12-million bank cards at a cost of R1-billion after its “master key” was compromised, the Sunday Times reported.

Citing several internal Postbank reports, the Times found that the bank’s master key was stored in plaintext during a data centre migration in July 2018. Two staff members also stored the key in plaintext on USB flash drives and one of the drives can’t be located.

One of the internal reports cited in the article, an overview of financial crime, reportedly stated that Postbank found 25,000 fraudulent transactions between March 2018 and December 2019. R56 million was stolen.

The master key was generated in January 2018, according to the report.

The article described the master key as a 36-digit code which allows anyone to read and write account balances, and read and change information on any of the cards the bank has issued.

The Post Office denied that its master key for Postbank’s cards had been compromised, saying that the “stories” were unfounded and only seek to create panic among Postbank’s clients.

Postbank’s clients include millions of social security beneficiaries who receive grants from the government every month.

No audit trail
Referring to another internal report titled “Overall IT Security Register” from January 2020, the Sunday Times reported that the Postbank had no logging in place to trace fraudulent transactions.

Postbank was not able to audit when an account was accessed, who accessed it, and what was done on the account.

A spokesperson for the Post Office said that it is on record that “systematic difficulties” were uncovered with the “reconciliation functionality” of the integrated grant payments system, and that the issue has been resolved.

R42-million stolen from Postbank in 2012
This is not the first time information security problems at Postbank has resulted in money being stolen.

In 2012, a syndicate stole R42 million from Postbank in a heist that took place over the New Year holidays — between 1 January and 3 January.

The syndicate opened several Postbank accounts across South Africa towards the end of 2011, and over New Year’s they gained access to a Rustenburg Post Office employee’s computer. From there the syndicate made deposits from other accounts into its own.

Over the next three days, automated teller machines in Gauteng, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal were used to withdraw cash from the accounts.

SA Post Office CEO suspended after just 4 months

Source: MyBroadband

The SA Post Office suspended its new interim CEO, Lindiwe Kwele, in December 2019, after just four months at the helm of the struggling state-owned enterprise.

Kwele was appointed as interim CEO in August last year when former Post Office CEO Mark Barnes resigned citing differences on a forward strategy in relation to the structure of the group.

After his resignation, Barnes said there was a competent team in place at the Post Office, led by Kwele, which can still realise the potential of the organisation.

Kwele first joined the Post Office in June 2017 as Chief Operating Officer. Before that, she was Deputy City Manager for the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality.

Business Day has now reported that Kwele and Mothusi Motjale, The SA Post Office’s head of the supply chain management division, were suspended on 4 December.

“The Post Office confirmed the suspension of the duo, saying it would allow for an independent investigation into unspecified matters,” the report stated.

Kwele fighting back
Advocate Eric Mabuza, who is representing Kwele, told Fin24 that the suspension is being challenged and has been referred to arbitration.

Kwele was suspended only two weeks after the new board was appointed and accused the board of delaying the process.

“How could the new board have familiarised themselves with matters at the SAPO within just two weeks?” he asked.

He added that Kwele “was just implementing decisions by the previous board”, adding that the suspension is related to politics.

Big losses
The SA Post Office continues to make big losses, which required the government to give it a capital injection of R2.95 billion over the previous financial year.

There were, however, positive movements under Barnes. He said in the Post Office’s last annual report that the company was progressing towards profitability.

He added that the organisation was in a sound financial position, with no external bank borrowings or outstanding National Treasury guarantees.

The Post Office’s revenue increased by R897 million (19.8%) to R5.44 billion compared to the previous reporting period.

Expenses, however, increased even faster. Total expenses increased by R1.43 billion to R6.78 billion, which resulted in a net loss of R1.172 billion.

The South African Post Office (SAPO) is now able to accept debit and credit cards as a payment method for the renewal of motor vehicle licences at all its branches that offer the service.

The service is available at selected post offices in all provinces except Mpumalanga and the Western Cape. The list of branches where the service is available can be checked here.

The renewal of motor vehicle licences is the most popular transaction at Post Office branches – clear evidence of the success of this service.

If you did not receive a renewal notice, the renewal form (ALV) can also be downloaded here.

Motorists who have received a traffic fine issued in terms of the AARTO Act may pay the traffic fine at any Post Office countrywide.

SAPO CEO sets deadline to clear backlog

A backlog of millions of items still waiting to be delivered at the Johannesburg nerve centre of the Post Office is being cleared as fast as possible.

That’s according to SAPO CEO Mark Barnes, who has stated that the provider is looking to clear the backlog by 24 November 2018.

“We started off in April with a 46-million item backlog and we are now down to a 7.8-million backlog.”

The bulk of that is sitting at the Witspos Hub in Johannesburg.

SAPO defines a “backlog” as any item of post five or more days behind schedule.

Barnes says there have been some improvements in clearing the domestic mailing backlog but they still need to catch up with international deliveries.

Listen to the full interview here.

Source: Randburg Sun 

There’s a new parcel delivery scam that post office users should remain alert for and guard against, Southlands Sun reports.

The SA Post Office warned the public to be on the alert for the new scam which is designed to defraud them.

The conmen place phone calls to members of the public, alleging to be from the Customs division of the SA Post Office. The caller informs them that a parcel is ready for collection, provided they first pay ‘customs fees’ into a bank account.

The SA Post Office insisted that it does not require customers to make any bank deposit before parcels are released. In instances where a SARS levy import tax is payable on parcels from abroad, the import tax must be paid at the Post Office counter when the item is collected. The customer will receive a point-of-sale receipt for this payment.

Where the Post Office has the recipient’s cellphone number, the customer will receive an SMS requesting them to collect the parcel at a specific branch. The SMS will not request funds to be deposited into an account.

Members of the public who have information regarding this scam are requested to call the police or the Post Office’s crime buster hotline on 0800-020-070.

The SA Post Office advises the public to ignore communication of this nature.

Unpaid domain fees are allegedly the reason why the South African Post Office’s (SAPO’s) web site was recently down for an unknown number of days.

Upon navigating to www.postoffice.co.za, users were greeted with an error stating: “This site can’t be reached … www.postoffice.co.za took too long to respond.”

According to reports on MyBroadband, payment for an amount of R125.40, invoiced on 1 February 2018, had not been made by owners of the post office domain.

Calvin Browne, cofounder of DNS Africa and head of international registrar relations at Domain Name Services, explained the situation in detail to MyBroadband.

According to Browne, an invoice was sent and delivered to SAPO on 1 February. By 1 March, a follow-up email was sent and delivered. On 12 March, a final warning e-mail was delivered, and a week later the domain was suspended. The outstanding fees were paid on 20 March.

The lack of payment was not the only issue, however, and is reason for the three-day delay between payment on 20 March and the web site only coming online again on 23 March.

According to MyBroadband, there are “several errors with the ‘postoffice.co.za’ zone setup”. Browne says it is “quite remarkable that anything works at all” – all of which contributed to the extended downtime.

Via MyBroadband, Browne gave a detailed explanation of these problems, which included:

  • There are seven nameservers, instead of the listed five in the registration
  • One of the nameservers – waterbok.postoffice.co.za – is not valid
  • The “postoffice.co.za” domain is susceptible to DNS cache poisoning and is vulnerable to being hacked
  • One nameserver – gemsbok.postoffice.co.za – is not listed in the co.za zone
  • When the “gemsbok” nameserver was queried, “waterbok” had been replaced by “gemsbok” and “gemsbok.postoffice.co.za” was gone
  • The TTLs (Time To Live records) are different – on “gemsbok.postoffice.co.za” they are set to expire in one day, while “waterbok.postoffice.co.za” they are set to 10 minutes
  • When Browne tested the nameservers, they responded with “SERVFAIL”, which “basically means they know nothing about postoffice.co.za”
  • These misconfigurations  mean two of five registered nameservers do not even know about the domain, and cannot be trusted to serve the correct information

When taking all of this into consideration, it is no surprise that SAPO took so long to get its web site back up and running – and it belies problems on their other domains, such as Post Bank.

Original article by MyBroadband

The South African Post Office (SAPO) has officially joined the scramble to replace Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) as the country’s social grants distributor amid an ongoing crisis over the payment of beneficiaries.

CEO Mark Barnes has submitted an affidavit dated March 13 to the Constitutional Court as part of the Post Office’s application to be admitted as a friend of the court in the Black Sash vs Sassa matter due to be heard on Wednesday.

In the court papers, Barnes states that using the Post Office would “serve the national interest, protect beneficiaries’ information and support government’s ambitions for radical socio-economic transformation”.

Barnes has proposed two alternative systems to solve the crisis, including one that could be implemented within days. However, another long-term plan would need to include CPS.

The South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) is under more pressure to find a solution after CPS said it would not be able to pay social grants from April 1 if an agreement is not reached by Thursday.

Read the article here: If there’s no new contract by Thursday, grants may not be paid

Barnes states in the papers that the Post Office had already submitted an emergency backup solution to Sassa on March 1 in case CPS pulled out of the payment of grants to 17 million beneficiaries.

It says it can step in by using an electronic voucher system already used to pay staff employed at the department of public works in the Eastern Cape.

The Post Office said the system can be up and running within days, ruling out the need to extend the CPS contract that expires on March 31.

“Pay points would include SAPO branches as well as the 10 000 locations managed by the current cash-in-transit service provider. Identity documents and identity cards would be checked to ensure that the right people are paid the right grants after comparing to Sassa’s SOCPEN database,” Barnes states in the affidavit.

However, Barnes’ long-term solution that would meet the Sassa requirements would need CPS to assist for a maximum of twelve months as the Post Office prepares to take over.

The Post Office would need CPS to provide the biometric system, personnel that could be retained or replaced over time and cash dispensing machines owned by CPS.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has insisted on a biometric system, arguing that it guards against fraud and has saved the fiscus R2bn. She said the system ensures that the right beneficiary is paid the right grant and proves the beneficiary is still alive.

‘State organ should have first preference’

Barnes proposes that the Auditor General monitor the 12-month handover period, with quarterly reports submitted to the court.

Barnes said the Post Office would charge R20 per beneficiary. CPS is currently charging R16.44 per beneficiary, an amount that is expected to increase if a new interim contract is signed.

Barnes argues in the court papers that the Post Office as a state organ should have first preference as a service provider.

“Where an organ of state is able to provide services, it is suggested that such services should first be procured from organs of state prior to the invitation being sent out to the public.

“The procurement of such services from the state-owned entities, where it is possible, is in the national interest and is fiscally prudent,” Barnes states in his affidavit.

However, Sassa and Dlamini have previously argued that the Post Office has only 2 567 outlets that are predominately in urban areas while the current system offers 10 000 outlets, mostly in rural areas. The two also said their norms and standards state that beneficiaries should not travel more than 5km to a pay point.

By Mahlatse Gallens for News24

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