What was your goal when leaving school?

I wanted to study medicine, but my elder brother who was studying towards a medical degree  convinced me otherwise. He said I had a flair for accounting.

Was your brother the first in your family to study at university?

Yes, but he passed away from cancer in his final year of study, so I was next in line, I went on the path that he had chartered for me. My younger sister also went to university, and she has been successful in business.

How was the environment for you as a women in the accounting field?

During my article years and years post articles, there were limited opportunities  for women. Even when I joined Deloitte there was a lack of female partners. I only started seeing a significant change in commerce and industry in the last three years.

Was it useful to work for a private firm while gaining your articles?

The learning and development I underwent at Deloitte was incredible. I got international exposure by working in the Houston office. Some of the major clients I was exposed to in Houston were in the Oil and Gas Industry. That experience was invaluable.

You have moved around quite a lot since joining Transnet in 2002; what have you gained from that?

It made me adapt very quickly, I learnt to work within different leadership environments. I came from a very structured environment at Deloitte. At Port Terminals there were very dynamic leadership styles. I grew dramatically, being given that exposure and being asked to lead departments outside Finance such as Procurement (Capital) and ICT.  As CFO I was tasked to drive the compilation of the corporate plans for Port Terminals, which is crafting the strategy for the division.

Are there advantages for a CEO in being a Chartered Accountant?

Definitely. Everything I do today is underpinned by my CA background. It has provided me with the foundation or building blocks to think strategically, demonstrate effective leadership and ensure the division is well governed and geared for growth.

What is in the future for Transnet Pipelines?

Our new strategic direction is to diversify revenue streams. This will include exploring opportunities such as transfer of technical skills in Africa and even operating and maintaining pipelines in Africa. In addition, Transnet Pipelines will be looking at the end to end supply chain and not just the pipeline components to improve supply chain effectiveness and ultimately get more volumes in the pipeline. This will ultimately reduce the cost of doing business in South Africa.  We will be working in an integrated manner with our sister division Transnet Freight Rail to deliver freight reliably.

We are also exploring opportunities to operate depots that are not owned by Transnet.

So maintaining the country's pipelines is not your only business?

The more product we get into the pipe the lower the cost of doing business in the country. First preference is pipe, then rail, then road. We need to maximise the use of our assets. The pipeline is logistically the cheaper and more reliable option and is also environmentally friendly.

It seems that there is something of an entrepreneurial spirit abroad in Transnet at the moment?

 Yes, I think everyone is excited about the Market Demand Strategy (MDS) and just knowing that you contribute towards the economy of the country makes one perform their job as if it were their own business. In support of Transnet’s Market Demand Strategy (MDS) significant volume growth,  infrastructure development of rail, ports and pipelines and regional integration beyond the normal run of the mill. 

You are not waiting for head office to make all the decisions?

No, but I have got their support. Each division has an opportunity to craft their Corporate Plan, which ultimately consolidates into a Transnet Corporate Plan. This Corporate Plan covers the strategic direction of each division aligned to the Transnet Strategy. The Corporate Plan is approved by our shareholders, DPE and has the full support of the Transnet Board and Transnet Executive Committee.

Have your senior managers bought into the Market Demand Strategy?

Yes, everybody is excited about it, also a bit nervous because of the economic downturn Transnet’s MDS will provide infrastructure ahead of demand to reduce the cost of doing business in SA and will also contribute to the objectives of the country’s developmental and transformation agenda. The economic downturn has impacted Transnet’s volumes negatively but we still plough ahead with our capital investment programme as we are confident investing through this economic cycle will benefit the company and the country in the longer term.

Tell us about progress on the New Multi-Product Pipeline (NMPP)?

To date we have spent R16-billion on the pipeline. The trunkline came into operation in January 2012 and only transports diesel until the completion of the terminals. Thereafter the trunkline will operate as a multi products line. In 2013, we will spend R2.5-billion. The first phase ends in December 2013 with completion of the two terminals, provided the weather delays don’t impact us significantly. These terminals (inland and coastal), will have three days of stock, allowing for flexibility in the system  Our main goal as TPL is ensure we maximise the use of the NMPP by shifting product from road onto pipe, which will result in lower tariffs and provide a safe, efficient and environmentally friendly service.

 I have heard that you use pigs to maintain the pipeline. Please tell us more!

The Pipeline Inspection Gauge commonly referred to as a “pig” is used to inspect, monitor and evaluate activities in the pipelines.  There are different types of “pigs” used by TPL.  The “Intelligent Pig” is one component of pipeline integrity monitoring that forms part of TPL’s strategic maintenance plan. The “Intelligent Pig” is able to detect internal and external corrosion and has the technology to detect defects and anomalies in the wall of the pipeline. These imperfections in the pipeline are then repaired to return the pipelines back to their original standards.

Have lessons been learnt on the cost overruns that occurred with the NMMP?

Lessons have definitely been learnt, in terms of our contracting strategies and our governance rules. Transnet did not have the in-house skills for the engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM), which is predominately outsourced for major projects. Transnet Capital Projects has now taken over the EPCM role for the NMPP, and will continue to grow our skills in this area. There is increased oversight on the project to ensure completion of the pipeline on schedule and within budget.

How much field work do you do?

Our pipeline network consists of 3 800km of underground pipeline and we have to monitor our servitudes by conducting regular helicopter inspections. Customer visits have commenced since December 2012 and are ongoing. Depot visits are scheduled in April 2013. My plan is to visit major depots and the terminals frequently.

How many members of staff does Transnet Pipelines employ?

We currently have 658, with approximately 209 at head office.

What is the state of play for Chartered Accountant training?

In terms of training Chartered Accountants, there used to be a TIPP programme (professional audit firms) and the TOPP programme (Commerce and Industry). The latter programme is more all-round financial accounting and management-decision-making training which turns out a well-rounded professional. The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) has now done away TIPP and TOPP, and has designed and implemented one Chartered Accountant Training (CAT)programme, and based on whether you are serving your articles with a professional auditing firm or firm in commerce and industry different electives are selected which provide the trainee with a structured learning outcome. You must have your CTA to apply for articles in Transnet. As of last year I was the training officer for KZN Office for Transnet, which permitted me to sign off trainees who have successfully completed their articles. Giving back to the profession by assisting with development of trainee accountants was really a privilege.

How many chartered accountants are coming through from the programme?

We have about three or four in Durban and six or seven in Johannesburg. The numbers are low, but it is a question of capacity. You need people with passion to drive the programme. If the trainees pass their Board exams and successfully complete their articles with us, we generally offer them a job; most of the people we have trained stay with Transnet. We have quite a few black students, the majority of whom are female.

Does Pipelines have programmes encouraging women?

Pipelines has seven Chartered Accountants currently, four of whom are female, and in Port Terminals there are more. At Pipelines, we are driving the development of a leadership programme for women. The programme will aim to empower women in operations and in the technical environment to reach their full potential and become successful leaders and ambassadors for other women in Transnet.  The other operating divisions in Transnet currently have successful programmes in operations and in engineering for women.      

Transnet Pipelines has made some strides in developing women in senior management roles such as Marshnee Naidoo who was recently appointed at Chief Technical Officer at Transnet Pipelines, she came from a very male-dominated environment. She was awarded a bursary by Transnet and worked her way up the ranks in TPL.  She is very technically competent and will undoubtedly make a great leader.

In addition our Environmental Officer, Khosi Zondi, who leads our environmental team is also amazing and is well versed in her field of expertise. These women operate in very specialised and highly technical fields and their drive and commitment to their work is an indication of the value they bring to Transnet.

What is Pipeline's main training facility?

The School of Pipelines, is currently obtaining accreditation from the Chemical SETA (Chieta) for technical and operations courses at TPL. We are also working with the petrochemical industry to establish accredited programs not only for Transnet, but for the country and the region.

Are any major changes planned in the field of training?

The Transnet Academy has been established and this will house amongst other technical skills, the School of Pipelines, School of Engineering and School of Maritime.  The School of Engineering and School of Maritime have already made strides in transforming of the schools.

Do you take trained people from other Transnet training facilities?

We take millwrights from the Transnet School of Engineering. Artisans are key to this country's future.

Tell us about Transnet's recent link-up with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)?

TPL are very interested in pursuing the opportunities presented by the MOU signed with CSIR. We have been part of the initial discussions and have identified areas of research that will assist with some of our current challenges. These are in the fields of pipeline integrity; product quality and operational efficiencies; theft and surveillance of the pipeline servitude; and environmental. At present the CSIR are engaged in an intensive programme with Transnet Engineering however TPL will engage further as the process continues.