Transnet chief executive Siyabonga Gama. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Embattled Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama is challenging the intention to formally suspend him and two other senior managers, arguing the move is unlawful.

In an exchange of letters with board chairperson Dr Popo Molefe, Gama cautions him against making rushed decisions and accuses Molefe of having already made up his mind to suspend him, irrespective of whatever representation he makes.

The back-and-forth squabble between the pair comes after the parastatal said reports from Werksmans Attorneys, Mncedisi Ndlovu & Sedumedi Attorneys and Fundudzi Forensic Investigators had revealed various acts of possible misconduct against Gama, chief procurement officer Thamsanqa Jiyane and supply chain manager Lindiwe Mdletshe.

Transnet said the reports recommended further investigations to establish the extent of the misconduct.

“The Transnet Board, therefore, contemplated placing the employees on precautionary suspension until the finalisation of further investigations and disciplinary enquiries,” the company said on Wednesday.

The trio’s suspension emanates from an investigation into allegations of violating the Public Finance Management Act, serious breaches of statutes, regulations and corporate governance and unlawful conduct in the R38billion procurement of 1064 diesel and electric locomotives.

The Sunday Independent is in possession of exchanges of letters between Gama and Molefe in which they disagree on what steps and actions should be taken based on the reports. The squabble centres on the split of the award as well as the estimated total cost for the locomotives, including hedging escalations.

Gama indicates he feels it is unlawful for action to be taken against him based on a preliminary report.

But Molefe hits back, saying MNS advised the board that they had obtained senior counsels’ opinion on their preliminary report for the purpose of validating and finalising the preliminary nature of their report.

He added that the only actiony taken by the board was a precautionary one issuing a notice of intention to suspend pending the finalisation of all investigations. He said any other actions would be taken upon the finalisation of various aspects arising out of the current investigation.

In his response on Friday Gama dug in his heels and maintained the board was misguided. He said proceeding with the preliminary report would result in embarrassment for the parastatal.

“The issue that the reports are preliminary and the embarrassment I am trying to save you and the board from remain perilously in sight. As an example, one of the offences against Jiyane in the MNS reports is that he caused the split of the RFP into parts 1 and 2, which the memo I have tracked disproves.

“The report you have based your decision on to place personnel on a precautionary suspension is based on an incomplete report. The purported final version will still be issued in the near future,” he said.

Gama provided minutes of a meeting that took place on February 26, 2014, where he said the decision to split was taken. Molefe had accused him of fabricating the meeting, indicating there were no records of it ever taking place.

He said Molefe’s assertion that the meeting was made up was a clear indication he had already decided to suspend him irrespective of what representation he makes.

“Your inference that I’m inventing meetings is far-fetched and disrespectful to me. I acted in good faith as a director in Transnet to advise the board on a potential risk and I did not choose to withhold crucial information which is critical in deciding the way forward.

“It is also very clear from your utterances that you plan to suspend me regardless of whatever submission I make to you,” he said.

The Sunday Independent