The Passenger Rail Agency of SA’s board has dismissed claims by the company’s former acting CEO Collins Letsoalo that he was victimised for fighting corruption, saying Letsoalo's allegations are a "misinformation crusade".
Prasa said this in a statement released on Wednesday afternoon.
On Monday, Letsoalo had said he would pursue legal action against Prasa over his exit from the company.
The ousting saw him face scrutiny over reports that he irregularly inflated his salary by 350%, from R1.3m to R5.9m, while he was the company’s acting CEO.
In the same statement, Letsoalo said he intended to lodge a complaint of fraud against a Sunday Times journalist who wrote an article, since retracted, stating that the auditor general found that Letsoalo must pay back millions of rands to Prasa.
'Not a permanent CEO'
The main bone of contention in the board’s statement is Letsoalo’s claim that the rail agency removed him from his position.
The board maintains Letsoalo was an employee of the Department of Transport and not Prasa.
"Mr Letsoalo was seconded to the position of Prasa acting CEO for a period of six months by former Transport Minister Dipuo Peters," the statement says.
"Mr Letsoalo’s appointment letter – as he is fully aware – stated that he would be remunerated as per Prasa’s policy prescripts as they relate to the position of an acting CEO, which is not that of a permanent CEO," the board said.
'Misled the public'
The statement said the six-month period Letsoalo was appointed for had lapsed and the board of directors chose not to extend his acting tenure.
"While on his misinformation crusade, Mr Letsoalo misled the public through his unsubstantiated and damaging accusations of a Prasa board that enabled corruption and the looting of public funds under the leadership of [former board chair Popo] Molefe," the statement said.
According to the board, it was vindicated by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria when the court set aside former transport minister Dipuo Peters’ decision to dissolve the Prasa board after Letsoalo’s exit last year.
"The North Gauteng High Court ruling also agreed with our position and found that the R3bn Swifambo Rail contract to acquire the new trains, under the leadership of the former CEO, was corrupt, and should be cancelled accordingly. This is just but one of the many examples of wrongdoing that the directors sought to correct, which Mr Letsoalo seems to disagree with," the statement said.
Letsoalo said in his initial statement that the Sunday Times journalist relied on a "manufactured" document masquerading as an audit report from the office of the Auditor General. The former Prasa boss has called on police to find the individual who wrote the report.
The Sunday Times apologised to Letsoalo earlier in December after the press ombudsman ruled that the newspaper had tarnished his reputation and dignity.
Approached by Fin24, Auditor General spokesperson Africa Boso said the report was not authored by the office of the AG. Prasa spokesperson Sipho Sithole told Fin24 that Prasa could not comment on a draft report that it did not produce.