Tag: SOE

SA Post Office on the brink of collapse

Source: MyBroadband

The South African Post Office (SAPO) is on the brink of collapse and is facing bankruptcy despite receiving R8-billion in bailouts since 2014.

This is a warning from the DA’s shadow deputy minister of communications and digital technologies, Cameron MacKenzie.

According to MacKenzie, there are reports of unpaid rentals and desperate suppliers, postal backlogs, and broken ICT systems.

MyBroadband has recently reported that many landlords have seized equipment and kicked out the SA Post Office from their malls for not paying rent.

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

The Post Office told MyBroadband while the backlog in rental payments on other properties has been settled, the Parkview and Menlyn Main post offices were closed by the property owner as a result of a rental dispute.

“The SA Post Office is currently in discussions with the landlord to resolve the dispute with the intention of re-opening the branches shortly,” it said.

The SA Post Office’s struggles to pay rent comes as no surprise.

A recent High Court judgement revealed that the Post Office’s year-to-date loss as at 31 July 2020 was R1.066 billion. Only 55 of the Post Office’s 1,416 operational branches were profitable.

MacKenzie 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.

“Suppliers are once again being parked in a queue for payment, despite all processes required to effect payment followed, including quotation, purchase order, service delivered, and invoice presented. All that’s missing is the money to pay them,” he said.

He added that SAPO’s IT systems, including the essential on-line ‘track-and-trace’ service, remain non-functional, so customers have no idea of the status of their parcels or mail.

“COVID-19 protocols are virtually non-existent, especially during the peak grant payment periods, putting the health and welfare of staff and customers alike at risk.”

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

“The Department of Communications needs a new minister and the SA Post Office a new owner. If ever there was a moment to hang the sign “Under New Management”, that time is now,” he said.

MyBroadband asked the SA Post Office for comment, but it did not reply by the time of publication.

Management challenges at the Post Office
Apart from the usual suspects – corruption, mismanagement, and a bloated workforce – the Post Office has also faced a management crisis since Mark Barnes resigned as CEO.

Barnes started his five-year contract as Post Office CEO on 15 January 2016 with a mandate to turn the struggling state-owned enterprise around.

Barnes, however, resigned as CEO on 1 August 2019 – eighteen months before his contract was set to expire.

“If the government had let management get on with our board-approved, portfolio committee supported strategy, we would’ve completed the turnaround of SAPO by now. Imagine that,” he said.

Since Barnes’ departure the acting CEO, Lindiwe Kwele was suspended and the new CFO, Khathutshelo Ramukumba resigned after barely two months on the job.

Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, Barnes said he could not comment on the current challenges at the SA Post Office since he was not there.

He instead reflected on his time at the Post Office. “I fell in love with the place and the people who work there,” he said.

While on a recent trip through South Africa, he saw scraggly queues of people outside Post Offices in towns waiting to get their social grants.

“The only inclination I had was to get out of my car and go and help them and re-fuel the culture changes we brought about,” said Barnes.

“We needed all the ingredients for the Post Office to complete its turnaround strategy, but those ingredients were not made available to us by the shareholder,” he said.

Looking back at his resignation in 2019, he said it became an easy decision after he looked at the facts.

“There is no Post Office in the world which has succeeded in the new age without access to the national payment system and financial transactions,” he said.

“It is no longer about post. It is about having a government infrastructure – a series of two-way channels – which have huge relevance in the modern world.”

This means when the government decided the Post Office Bank should be held separately, Barnes could no longer promise the delivery of a fully integrated, functional, and financially sustainable Post Office.

Barnes said he believes the government’s current strategy around the Post Office is going to fail, which is why he decided to resign.

 

Passengers on a recent Mango flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town were terrified when the aircraft suddenly nosedived, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in Johannesburg. A subsequent investigation into the incident has highlighted the extent of South African Airways’ problems.

  • A faulty part was fitted to the aircraft by SAA Technical
  • SAA admitted that it has been infiltrated by an international criminal syndicate
  • The syndicate has supplied the company with suspicious aircraft parts and looted “hundreds of millions of rands”
  • Defective parts cause incidents such as the nosedive of the Mango Boeing 737
  • Comair, which operates British Airways in South Africa, has ended its relationship with SAA Technical
  • Airlines have been grounded for such activities
  • The government has pumped almost R50-billion into the airline in the last decade

SOE bailouts loom in South Africa

By Gaye Davis for EWN

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said cash injections for state-owned entities like the South African Airways, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and Denel wouldn’t be handed over all at once but in chunks, as certain conditions are met.

Mboweni was on Tuesday replying to debate on the Appropriations Bill, which was before the National Assembly.

The Appropriations Bill provides for budget allocations to all departments and entities and was tabled by Mboweni along with his February Budget.

It included provision for R3.2 billion for the cash-strapped public broadcaster.

The bailout money for the SABC, Denel and SAA would come from the contingency reserve account but Mboweni said it came with strings attached.

“We would not just make that available tomorrow, it would be a mistake but we will release in chunks as certain conditions precedent are met, to make sure there’s progress in improving the organisation.”

Mboweni said chief restructuring officers for each entity would be announced on Wednesday. They would work with the management of the SABC, SAA and Denel to get them back on track.

The minister has warned that the country’s debt to GDP ratio was at an “unacceptable level”: “Thus providing the basis for a serious crisis in the country.”

He said financial management needed to be improved across government and people needed to accept the principle of paying for the services they use.

By Mia Lindeque for EWN

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says that it is urgently dealing with its bank to sort out a technical glitch which resulted in staff not being paid their salaries on time.

Frustrated employees contacted Eyewitness News in a panic on Tuesday, complaining that they were not warned in advance.

This frenzy was partly triggered by concerns raised in Parliament by the SABC management painting a bleak picture of not being able to pay salaries in the future if the financial crisis at the public broadcaster doesn’t change.

The broadcaster’s Neo Momodu says that there was a technical problem on the bank’s side and has assured staff that they will be paid before the end of the day.

She’s also clarified that the SABC made all the necessary payments on time.

“We are handling the matter with the bank and we are sure that it will reflect in their accounts on 29 January. We’ve paid the salaries like we always do to the necessary banks so that they reflect with our staff. We are not in control of the cash. As far we are concerned as management, the salaries should have reflected in the staff’s bank accounts.”

By Luke Daniel for The South African 

Embattled state owned enterprises (SOEs) are South Africa’s biggest and most dangerous economic stumbling blocks.

This is according to the international rating agency, Moody’s, which points to Eskom’s major failings as a cause for national concern.

State owned enterprises all performing dismally
While speaking at the Investor Service’s conference on Thursday, the agency’s senior credit officer for infrastructure finance, Helen Francis, outlined the dire position most SOEs find themselves in.

The massive financial drain perpetuated by failing SOEs has been well documented. Eskom, in particular, has reported over R19bn in irregular expenditure and continues to rely on government bailouts to stay afloat.

Worrying, Eskom is undoubtedly the largest and most vital SOE – supplying 90% of South Africa with electricity.

Yet, the embattled national power supplier just can’t seem to get back on its feet, following Gupta interference involving former company boss, Brian Molefe. Recently, the company issued an ominous statement, bemoaning the fact that its coal reserves were dwindling as a result of dodgy tenders.

Looking across the entire SOE spectrum paints a dismal picture. It’s not just Eskom that is dying, and in that way draining the already unsteady economy of vital funds. Transnet, South African Airways (SAA), the South African Broadcasting Corporation, and many more national companies are failing to make ends meet.

Corruption still plaguing SOEs
Speaking to Fin24, Futuregrowth Asset Management’s, Olga Constantatos, said that turning the situation around would not be easy and that much more needs to be done.

Constantatos commented on the disease of corruption and gross mismanagement which afflicts both Eskom and Transnet, saying:

“Much more needs to happen. The latest results at Transnet and Eskom point to the circumventing of controls – with Eskom’s R20 billion in irregular expenditure and Transnet’s R8bn. We need to see prosecutions. We need to see arrests of people who were stealing money essentially from you and me.”

Constantatos added that there needs to be stiffer repercussion for SOEs which flout due process, and as such, essentially, steal from the taxpayer and investors, saying:

“As bond investors, we are custodians of the nation’s pension funds. We should not be allocating capital to institutions where there is malfeasance, or lend blindly to companies that are not responsible.”

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