The Man Who Saved SA’s Ailing Post Office Business & Became Its Boss Without A CV Has Quit- This Is Why

By  |  August 2, 2019

Post Office on Thursday made known the resignation of its chief executive officer Mark Barnes.

The CEO who served the state-owned entity for three-and-a-half years joins the list of other public sector heads who have resigned in recent months.

According to a statement released by the Post Office, Barnes cited “differences on forwarding strategy in relation to the structure of the SA Post Office group, in particular, the location of Postbank,” as his reason for calling it quits.

His resignation has come as a huge blow for the state entity since Barnes coordinated a turnaround for an organization that has continuously recorded losses. When Barness took over as CEO for SAPO, the loss-making firm was on the verge of collapse with millions of accrued debts. In fact, prior to Barnes taking over, the situation was so ugly that the government put the enterprise under administration.

Barnes has always exuded confidence and effected change for the enterprise initially marred with difficulties. His passion to lead the ailing state entity was depicted when he submitted a detailed business plan on how the Post Office woes could be fixed as opposed to submitting a CV.

“At the Post Office, we are about finding solutions. Imagine what it could be. It is an organisation that has a fantastic infrastructure and more clients than any other business in this country. If we combine a strong business culture with our constitutional mandate then we will have the winning formula,” Barnes said earlier.

From the onset, he viewed SAPO as a great asset which could become a profitable company.

Having come from a successful career: deputy MD of Standard Merchant Bank, CEO of Brait SA Limited, and executive chairman of the Purple Group, many thought his decision to join the troubled entity at a time when it was fraught with financial mismanagement was sane.

But after he took the driver seat, the company made positive steps to be better. Few months after he joined, he revealed that have managed to reduce customer complaints by about 60 percent. Additionally, he stated that international mail services had increased by double figures.

Barnes was influential in the Post Office’s partnership with the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) which was described as a huge inter-governmental partnership.

Following his departure, the board has been commended for his efforts to ensure the company is stabilised and without debt.

Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has praised Barnes for “playing an integral role in strengthening the organisation.”

“In his time at the SA Post Office, Barnes has led the stabilization of the organization as well as pioneered its positioning as a relevant access point of government services for our communities,” the Post Office said.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications said that he made sure the post office discharged its legislative mandate despite serious financial constraints.

Post Office board member Charles Nwaila said that Barnes was instrumental in clearing the backlog in its depots that affected the delivery of items to customers.

The Post Office noted that its outgoing CEO was leaving the state-owned entity while it is functioning properly.

Post Office trade unions are uneasy about Barnes’s departure. Aubrey Tshabalala, the National Secretary-General of the Communications Workers said, “He was working very closely with labor; it was not all rosy, but there was a bigger picture. Now, this brings about a gloomy picture.”

While Post Office has expressed confidence that the departure of its CEO would not have any impacts on the company, the truth seems to be that his resignation has come as a huge blow since he engineered the key changes that led to the improvement of the state entity.

Business Day has reported that a “sharp difference of opinion with the government and the board” on how Postbank will work with the Post Office is the reason why the respected figure opted to quit as working with SAPO.

Apparently, Barnes wanted Postbank and the Post Office to be fully consolidated so as to offer different services. On the other hand, SAPO board, and other organisations want to separate the Postbank from the Post Office.

Earlier in May, Barnes said SAPO had a large financial services portfolio further stating that it is seeing SAPO with a capacity of being more beneficial to South Africans particularly through offering credits.

“All successful Post Offices in the world have a significant proportion of their income coming from financial services,” he noted.

SA Post Office’s COO, Lindiwe Kwele, has been named as interim CEO as the Post Office looks for a new head. In a statement, it said, “To ensure continuity, Barnes will remain within the SA Post Office fold for a period to aid the transition of the interim Group CEO.”

Featured Image Courtesy: City Press

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