/ 3 September 2015

New board, new broom, says Prasa chair

Former Prasa chief executive Lucky Montana.
Former Prasa chief executive Lucky Montana.

The board of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has decided not to put up a fight regarding the findings made by public protector Thuli Madonsela against the agency.

In a press conference on Thursday Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe said the board was shocked by Madonsela’s findings of large-scale maladministration at the parastatal.

At the same time he noted that there was a thorough process under way to clean up the rails agency. “We are a new board. We only became aware, seriously, of the public protector’s investigation in March this year, even though it started in 2012,”  Molefe told reporters in Pretoria.

It received formal documents relating to the report on March 15, six months before Madonsela released her report, entitled Derailed.

Molefe confirmed that the Prasa board would adhere to the recommendations made by Madonsela.

This would entail an overhaul in the supply chain management process, all those implicated in the report would be disciplined and money lost through dodgy deals would be sought to be recovered.

Molefe said Prasa had asked National Treasury to send it a chief procurement officer and was looking at its supply chain management systems in a bid to fix its problems.

Legal action

A qualifications audit would also be undertaken after its human resources department apparently let some employees “fall through the cracks”.

Chief engineer Daniel Mthimkhulu resigned recently after his academic qualifications were found to be nonexistent. Molefe said another individual had since been identified who claimed to have a doctorate, which appeared to be fraudulent. Prasa is considering legal steps regarding some of the remedial action Madonsela mentioned in her report. 

It is taking disciplinary steps against employees implicated in wasteful and fruitless expenditure. Madonsela found that there was systemic failure to comply with supply chain management policy, tenders worth billions were improperly awarded, people were hired and fired as it were and services were terminated without following procedure.

She found that 19 of the 32 complaints against Prasa were substantiated. Asked about the difficulties Madonsela’s office had in getting information from the Prasa, Molefe said the requests went through fired chief executive Lucky Montana’s office.

“He was the only one who communicated with the office of the public protector. Whether those employees wilfully withheld information is unknown to us,” he said. 

Madonsela’s report implicates Montana in several cases of maladministration and tender irregularities. She recommended that disciplinary action be taken against him. 

Montana has indicated that he would be challenging the report in court and believes it is factually incorrect.

The Democratic Alliance said this week it would lay fraud and corruption charges against Montana and would ask for the report to be tabled in Parliament.

The ANC has also called for swift action to be taken in getting to the bottom of the allegations in Madonsela’s report.

“No stone must be left unturned in the quest to get to the bottom of this matter. Corruption is the antithesis of the society we want to build and the ANC is committed to ensuring that it becomes a very unique exception in our country.

“As South Africans, we must be totally intolerant to such deviant behaviours and those found guilty of such transgressions must be brought to book,” national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said in a statement. – News24

  • Additional reporting by Qaanitah Hunter and Thulani Gqirana