Why Peters stopped the Prasa probe

Cape Town - Transport Minister Dipuo Peters didn’t direct the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to merely stop a forensic investigation conducted by Werksmans Attorneys, said Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe.

“She was just worried about the costs, which has amounted to about R83m so far,” he said as the Prasa board and executive management appeared before parliament’s portfolio committee on Tuesday.

They were reporting back on Prasa’s annual performance plan when MPs Leonard Ramatlakane from the ANC and the Cope’s Deirdre Carter asked the body to update the committee on the status of the forensic investigation.

Molefe maintained that although the costs of the forensic investigation were high, Prasa simply had to find the money to see it concluded. “[The investigation] is massive and it involves R14bn,” he said. “We have uncovered irregular confinements of some 120 instances of which 40 are civil litigation taking place,” he said.

“The law requires us as the accounting authority to have this investigation done. It’s our responsibility in terms of management of resources and the financial loss of a state entity.”

News24 reported last week that Peters instructed Molefe to put an end to the investigation, which was initiated after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela instructed Prasa and the National Treasury to launch investigations into all Prasa contracts valued at above R10m.

Subsequently, Fin24 reported that Peters was complaining that Prasa’s forensic investigation was taking long and that it should be expedited, Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said.

Court matters

Addressing MPs concerns about the negative media reports concerning Prasa, Molefe said there were two matters currently before the court, which attracted media attention.

“We have two matters currently before the courts – one is the locomotives and the other is the Siyangena matter,” Molefe said.

Prasa filed a lawsuit against the supplier of locomotives to get back the money it has paid so far for 70 new locomotives meant to replace part of its ageing fleet.

Thirteen of the intended 70 locomotives supplied were reported to have been the wrong height and bound to damage South Africa’s existing rail infrastructure.

Molefe said on Tuesday that from the outset there had been no proper contract in place for the provision of the locomotives.

The second matter before the courts pertained to an improper tender that Prasa had awarded to Siyangena Technologies, worth R1.95bn, to install high-speed passenger gates at the Doornfontein and Nasrec train stations. The tender was extended beyond the advertised scope, in violation of Prasa’s supply chain management policy.

Molefe said Prasa’s appearance before parliament on Tuesday shouldn’t be viewed as a “negative story”.

“It’s positive in the sense that Prasa and South Africa are firm on dealing with corruption – an issue that has been raised in budget speeches, the president’s state of the nation address and during the local government election campaigns,” Molefe said.

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