Hawks ordered to file answering affidavits over Prasa probe

2018-05-04 19:16
Prasa. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Prasa. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has ordered the Hawks to file answering affidavits in a case where the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), under Popo Molefe, had forced the unit to probe corruption within the entity. 

On Friday, the court ordered that the Hawks deliver their answering affidavit within five days of the order.  

The papers in the main application have been incomplete due to the Hawks' failure to deliver their answering affidavits.

Molefe's last act as a Prasa chairperson was to send a scathing letter to former Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza over his unit's alleged failure to probe suspect tenders worth billions of rands.

News24 obtained a letter Molefe sent to Ntlemeza on February 13, in which the former Prasa chairperson says the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) "failed to comply with its constitutional and statutory obligations to investigate these matters (the allegedly crooked contracts) and to bring the investigations to finality". 

The Hawks have tried to have the case thrown out, saying that Molefe did not have a mandate to bring the application.

Delays could have been avoided, says court

However, in the judgment, the court said: "It is to be deplored that organs of state engage in interlocutory skirmishes with each other while the main battle is raging around them and they, by their conduct, delay any meaningful engagement therein.

"The delay caused by the dispute of one organ of state of the authority by another organ of state for a mandamus to have criminal investigations expedited or concluded has exceeded nine months...." 

The court found that the delays could have been avoided and that the manner in which the authority had been challenged was inappropriate.

"Not only did this delay prejudice progress in the finality of the investigation or at least the consideration of the public interest issues raised in the main application but huge additional costs were incurred," it said.   

The court also granted civil rights body the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) leave to intervene in the application.

OUTA had applied to the court to compel the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority to investigate Prasa. 

"It is sad that the state entities should be taken to court to do their job. We hope that law enforcement agencies will take heed of this judgment and do their job as expected," OUTA's head of legal Stefanie Fick said in a statement.  

Criminal complaints

OUTA will now file its founding affidavit in the main application.  

The court ordered the Hawks to pay Prasa's costs of the interlocutory applications, including the costs of the condonation application and Prasa's counter application.

After former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana was axed in July 2015, the Prasa board laid criminal complaints relating to tenders worth more than R7bn awarded during his tenure.

This included a contract worth R40bn which was awarded to local technology firm Siyangena Technologies and a R3.5bn tender for the acquisition of locomotives found to be unsuitable for South Africa's rail network.

In his letter to Ntlemeza, Molefe describes the contracts as involving "substantial amounts of public monies".

The investigations "relate to tender irregularities and associated unlawful activity that has a detrimental effect on public transport delivery affecting South Africans nationally and concern the diversion of substantial amounts of public monies for personal gain and corruption".

Molefe accused the Hawks of having stalled the probes, despite having access to an extensive amount of information and evidence about alleged corruption and other transgressions stemming from the tenders.

Read more on:    prasa  |  hawks

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