CAPE TOWN, The South African Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) has criticised board members and senior executives of Transnet, the government-owned railways, ports and pipeline company, for failing to attend a scheduled meeting with the committee last month.

Scopa had to subpoena Transnet executives to bring them to Parliament and it said here Tuesday that it would look at ways of holding the executives personally liable for all the costs which were incurred for last month’s cancelled meeting.

It has also warned the executives that they would be held accountable if it transpired that they had misled Parliament. The meeting which never took place last December was meant to discuss the alleged flouting of laws governing the management of public funds as well as the expansion and deviation of contracts at Transnet.

SCOPA Chairperson Themba Godi says Transnet executives will have to pay all the costs which were incurred for the previous meeting from their own pockets.

We came to Cape Town for the meeting on the 6th at our expense. So that was a fruitless expenditure which we would want Transnet to reimburse. Not only for the members who were here but I think over two days. We had a day-long with members of the Treasury and with Brigadier Bassie from the Hawks (the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation), who was also here with us on the 2 days.

Transnet Chairperson Linda Mabaso was forced to apologise to the committee after she contradicted her colleagues about the reasons for their non-appearance before Parliament last month. The board was asked to account for the billions of rand worth of expansions and deviations on their books.

Despite an apology from the Chairperson for having snubbed the committee, MPs were not moved. They cited a serious breakdown in trust between them and the board.

Mabaso said: Again, I want to reiterate, we truly and profusely apologise to the Committee; apologise to Parliament and it’s not that we disrespected Parliament. We truly appreciate the importance of the role of legislative institutions in requests to holding government departments and State-owned companies.

African national Congree (ANC) Member of Parliament Vincent Smith said: The severity of what you are faced with colleagues, I think when you did the oath you were told that you are liable to a sentence of one year or something to that effect. The Companies Act talks about imprisonment. The PFMA (Public Finance Management Act), section 86.2 talks about a penalty of imprisonment and or a fine. That’s what it talks about and I am not threatening you, I am promising you.

MP Ntombovuyo Mente from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said: We deal with ethics and integrity. Here, there is none. There’s no ethics. There’s no integrity. There’s lies at the expense of the poor at the expense of taxpayers.