Transnet unveils sweeping changes at the top
Transnet group CEO Portia Derby has made further senior management changes at the state-owned port and freight rail operator in another move to clean-up its governance structures compromised at the height of State Capture.
In an internal memo to staff dated 30 April 2020, which has been seen by Business Maverick, Derby and the Transnet board has made five top management-level appointments that are effective from 1 May – filling vacancies in divisions that had not had permanent heads for months. Transnet has yet to publicly announce the appointments.
Transnet has appointed Ralph Mills as the chief executive of Transnet Engineering, a division that generated the fourth-largest revenue for the group in 2019 after freight rail, port terminals and the national ports authority.
Mills will head a division responsible for manufacturing and testing and maintenance of railway stock including locomotives, freight wagons, passenger coaches and port equipment across its six factories based in Koedoespoort, Germiston, Bloemfontein, Durban, Uitenhage and Salt River.
Before joining Transnet Engineering, Mills was CEO for four years of defence and aerospace innovation firm Paramount Advanced Technologies. According to the staff memo, Mills has more than 20 years’ experience in the defence and engineering sector, having worked for companies including Paramount, Denel and African Defence Systems.
Another key appointment is advocate Sandra Coetzee as the Transnet chief legal officer. This office is responsible for overseeing and managing Transnet’s legal risks and regulatory matters – and was at the centre of irregularly awarded contracts during the State Capture years.
Among the contracts is one entered into by Transnet with four original equipment manufacturers – General Electric, Bombardier Transportation, China North Rail and China South Rail – for the procurement of more than 1,000 locomotives in 2013. The estimated total cost for the locomotives reportedly ballooned from R38.6-billion to R54.5 billion – a deal plagued by allegations of fraud, irregularities and kickbacks.
Before joining Transnet, Coetzee spent several years at the Independent Power Producer Office of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, where she was recently appointed as the acting head after Karen Breytenbach was abruptly fired in July 2019.
Coetzee, who is an advocate of the high court, has more than 20 years’ experience in the private and public sector in areas of corporate governance reform, litigation management, risk management, compliance, procurement and others.
Other top management level appointments that Transnet has made include Yolisa Kani as the new chief business development officer, Dr Andrew Shaw (the chief strategy officer from 1 July 2020), and Pertunia Mohlabi (company secretary).
Derby said in the staff memo:
“We are at an important inflexion point in our country and it is imperative Transnet’s leadership is agile and innovative enough to respond to the changes.
“I have no doubt that these executives will provide solutions to help improve the services we offer to our customers.”
Derby recently announced four other senior management changes effective from 1 April, including the appointment of former SA Express CEO Siza Mzimela as chief executive of Transnet Freight Rail, which is the largest division of the company by revenue generation.
An insider at Transnet said since Derby’s appointment as group chief executive by the Cabinet in January 2020, her focus had been to remove middle managers and senior executives implicated in State Capture and reorganising the top leadership structure to remove redundancies.
Among the top leadership posts scrapped include the Transnet group chief operating officer and chief capital officer (the group capital division itself was scrapped). Some functions under the two scrapped posts will be fulfilled by chief strategy officer Shaw, who will officially start from 1 July, the insider said.
Other key appointments are expected to be made in the coming weeks, with the insider saying there are between 20 and 30 vacant middle management and senior executive positions across the group’s five divisions.
Courtesy of Business Maverick – read full article here