Gov­ern­ment has done lit­tle to help, says chief ex­ec­u­tive of fail­ing Post Of­fice

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG DODDS

SA POST Of­fice chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Barnes launched a broad­side at the gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day over its bro­ken prom­ises to sup­port the paras­tatal af­ter it posted a R1.1 bil­lion loss in the 2015/16 fi­nan­cial year.

Barnes told mem­bers of Par­lia­ment’s telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and postal ser­vices over­sight com­mit­tee the Post Of­fice was likely to de­clare a sim­i­lar loss in the com­ing year, largely thanks to a bud­geted R600 mil­lion in gov­ern­ment busi­ness that hadn’t ma­te­ri­alised.

He ad­mit­ted that its qual­i­fied au­dit and achieve­ment of just 21 per­cent of tar­gets was un­ac­cept­able and said there would be con­se­quences for se­nior man­age­ment, who now had the elim­i­na­tion of au­dit find­ings in­cluded in their per­for­mance con­tracts.

But DA MP Cameron MacKen­zie said deal­ing with the Post Of­fice was “a bit like kiss­ing a frog”. Each year it came to present its an­nual re­port, show­ing sim­i­lar re­sults and MPs kissed it, yet it never turned into a prince.

Barnes re­sponded that the Post Of­fice hadn’t felt any love in a long time, and by this stage was in need of CPR.

But he was an­gered when chair­man of the com­mit­tee Mmamoloko Kubayi sug­gested he was be­ing “ab­sorbed” by the sys­tem in­stead of chang­ing it, as he ap­peared to be ex­plain­ing why things couldn’t be done, rather than get­ting rid of those who didn’t per­form.

Barnes said when he started at the Post Of­fice he was told there was a cab­i­net res­o­lu­tion that 30 per­cent of gov­ern­ment busi­ness should be awarded to the paras­tatal, yet none of it had ma­te­ri­alised.

“We’ve sub­mit­ted let­ters on Sassa, on the gov­ern­ment em­ployee hous­ing scheme, we’ve sub­mit­ted let­ters to all of those min­is­ters – we haven’t even got a re­ply,” Barnes said.

“If we are go­ing to make a loss of R1.4bn next year, it’s go­ing to be pri­mar­ily ex­plained by the fol­low­ing: R600m of gov­ern­ment busi­ness, R300m of courier busi­ness and R200m not re­alised from prop­er­ties.

“The so­cial grant sys­tem alone would make the Post Of­fice prof­itable, yet it had been awarded to a for­eign com­pany. We were en­ti­tled by law to have that and they took it away,” Barnes said.

He had gone to the of­fice of Chief Pro­cure­ment Of­fi­cer Ken­neth Brown and of­fered to de­liver his garbage or a bakkie load of empty en­velopes to Cape Town to prove it could be done on time.

“If we de­liver your garbage and then we de­liver your empty en­velopes, will you give us some real work, I asked him. Noth­ing’s hap­pened as a con­se­quence of that, ex­cept they turned down one of the ten­ders we went for.”

He was “ready to fight” for gov­ern­ment busi­ness.

“I thought the cab­i­net was in con­trol of the coun­try and the cab­i­net said we’re go­ing to get 30 per­cent of the busi­ness, we got noth­ing,” Barnes said.

He ac­cused the Trea­sury of be­ing the sec­ond big prob­lem fac­ing the Post Of­fice as it re­fused to take its busi­ness plans se­ri­ously.

“That’s Trea­sury’s view of us – keep the Post Of­fice go­ing, Mark, for good­ness sake, it’s a nec­es­sary ser­vice, but don’t come tell me you need R1bn to trans­form it into a lead­ing com­mer­cial or­gan­i­sa­tion like it is in In­dia and Rus­sia and Turkey and all of the Euro­pean coun­tries and Eng­land and Amer­ica.”

He said all the suc­cess­ful post of­fices were lead­ing tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies with full sup­port of gov­ern­ment, that had listed on the stock mar­ket and raised cap­i­tal.

“The Post Of­fice is no longer ir­rel­e­vant, phys­i­cal de­liv­ery into in­fra­struc­ture is no longer ir­rel­e­vant – ask Ama­zon, ask Alibaba about phys­i­cal de­liv­ery and in­fra­struc­ture and they will tell you it is one of their most cru­cial de­liv­ery chain as­sets,” Barnes said.

Fix­ing the Post Of­fice and ex­pand­ing into e- com­merce would add 2 per­cent to the coun­try’s GDP, while the pri­vate sec­tor was itch­ing for the Post Of­fice to fail so it could “pick up the scraps”.

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