Public Protector office clarifies Prasa probe order

Cape Town – The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa's (Prasa’s) forensic investigation has not been stopped, but told to speed up, Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said on Thursday.

This follows a News24 report on Wednesday that Transport Minister Dipuo Peters had instructed Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe to stop the parastatal's ongoing investigation into contracts worth billions of rands awarded during the tenure of Lucky Montana, Prasa's former CEO.

News24 learnt from three sources at Prasa that Peters had last week written a letter to Molefe in which she instructed him to put an end to an investigation commissioned by the Prasa board.

READ: Peters tells Prasa to halt contracts probe

The initiation of the probe followed Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's damning Prasa report last year, in which she instructed Prasa and the National Treasury to launch investigations into all Prasa contracts valued at above R10m.

However, on Thursday Segalwe told Fin24 that the minister had clarified her instructions.

“We have not been in touch with the minister's office yet,” he told Fin24.

“However, from the clarifications that the minister's office has made, it is our understanding that the minister was not saying the investigations should be stopped, instead she was complaining that it was taking long and that it should be expedited.”

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday released a confidential letter by Peters, which it said showed she was “flagrantly attempting to thwart and ultimately terminate an independent investigation being conducted by Werksmans …”

According to DA MP Manny de Freitas, Peters wrote on 12 August 2016: “I therefore, ask that you close off this investigation process and consider the results thereof. Furthermore, the board is requested to submit a detail[ed] report indicating the progress and the outcome of the investigation. A determination of any further investigation and a way forward will subsequently be made after studying the report in detail.”

De Freitas will request Peters to appear before the Portfolio Committee on Transport to explain why she requested for the investigation to be withdrawn while in progress.

“In the letter Minister Peters speaks of the monies paid to Werksmans for investigating as excessive and being tantamount to irregular expenditure which is untrue, for an investigation into billions the current R80m fee seems on par with market rates.

“Furthermore if the Minister had not tried to stonewall and protect Prasa incumbents such as former CEO Lucky Montana, the commissioning of an independent report would not be necessary.

“It is astonishing that a Minister would request an investigation into financial malfeasance to be terminated prematurely unless there is something to hide.”

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