It’s payback time for greedy Prasa board members, starting with Molefe at R680 000

In an unusual stand against greed and graft within South African state-owned entities, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has revealed that there has been some cleaning up going on at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa). Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe has already repaid R680 000 for extra board meetings that were not approved by the Department of Transport and other board members have also been instructed to repay the remuneration to which they were not entitled. Although Peters has been criticised for not being on top of her game when it comes to knowing what is going on within state transport agencies, at least she is now taking steps to get up to speed. Some will rightly argue that Peters is not going far enough to correct wrongs that have been uncovered. The sums in this easy money-spinner for board members are huge and the individuals involved are still being let off the hook to a large extent because they are not being charged interest on the money – or axed from their jobs. It could be argued, too, that the police should be called in to open a dossier, not only in connection with irregular board meetings but also to probe billions of rands in questionable spending by Prasa over the years. There is a bad whiff around Peters, who has reportedly tried to block an investigation into the awarding of specific contracts. However, Peters could make a smart move now to clean up her image by taking a firm stand against irregularity – and, in so doing, elevate herself above the feeding trough. But that’s unlikely, not least of all because Peters, like other ANC ministers, has shown herself to be like putty in the hands of President Jacob Zuma. The most recent failed vote of no confidence in Zuma over allegations of widespread financial irregularity contained in the #StateCaptureReport was a reminder that ANC MPs base their decisions on party instructions and not on conscience. Although Zuma has denied all allegations of wrongdoing, it seems evident that any meaningful step towards clamping down on corruption and the abuse of taxpayers’ funds at state organisations is unlikely without a change at the top. – Jackie Cameron

By Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) chairperson Popo Molefe repaid R680 000 for extra board meetings that had not been approved by the Department of Transport.

SA transport minister Dipuo Peters
SA transport minister Dipuo Peters

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters revealed this on Tuesday in a Parliamentary written response to a question by Democratic Alliance MP Manny de Freitas.

“As at 31 October 2016, the chairman of the Prasa Board, Dr. Popo Molefe, repaid R680 000,” she said.

The other board members have until 31 January 2017 to pay back the money, she added.

Peters said that on 27 October, she instructed the board “to repay the money that was paid for supplementary board meetings without prior written approval from the executive authority”.

This followed the Prasa board of control’s submission regarding the circumstances that led to the payment made to the board for the extra board meetings.

“No interest is being charged to the board members,” said Peters.

Lucky Montana PRASA
Former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana

This comes after former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana told a radio station that Molefe increased the “number of board meetings from four in a year to 16, dramatically raising the cost of remuneration”, according to a Times report on August 30.

This allegedly led to acting Prasa CEO Collins Letsoalo accusing Montana of being in “illegal possession of a ‘classified’ management report that could prove highly embarrassing for the company”.

Also read: Former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana: “I’m innocent”

In August, News24 reported that Peters had instructed Molefe to stop the parastatal’s ongoing investigation into contracts worth billions of rands awarded during the tenure of Montana.

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.

Also read: DA says ex-Prasa boss – Lucky Montana – belongs in jail

According to the sources, Peters maintained in her letter that Prasa had not budgeted for the investigation and that it therefore needed to be canned immediately.

“I therefore ask that you close off this investigation process and consider the results or report thereof…  A determination of any further investigation and a way forward will subsequently be made after studying the report in detail,” reads Peters’s letter to Montana.

One source says the investigation’s focus on Siyangena Technologies and Swifambo Rail Leasing, two companies against which Prasa has instituted civil claims, had resulted in high-ranked politicians being canvassed by powerful businessmen in an effort to have the probe stopped.

Swifambo Rail Leasing won a R3.5bn contract in 2012 to provide 70 new locomotives to Prasa.

However, the Department of Transport “categorically denied” the allegation.

Also read: Why Transport Minister Martins, Montana ejected – Guptas’ R51bn train grab

“It is categorically denied that the Minister at any stage instructed any member of the Prasa Board and/or administration to stop any investigation of any nature. The Minister however implored that investigations be speedily concluded (our emphasis) as opposed to unlimited and ever ongoing investigations costing the entity millions of rand without any tangible report tabled.

“It is an undeniable fact that some of the investigations have been protracted for a lengthy period of time without any indication of such investigations coming to a conclusion,” reads the statement. – Fin24


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