Probes of Prasa off the rails

So many that gov­ern­ment ‘has lost plot’

Cape Argus - - FRONT PAGE -

THERE were so many probes that dif­fer­ent ser­vice providers con­ducted into cor­rup­tion at the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) that the gov­ern­ment couldn’t keep track of them. This is what Trans­port Min­is­ter Joe Maswan­ganyi told MPs yes­ter­day. “There are so many in­ves­ti­ga­tions, some we don’t even know what they are do­ing,” he said, brief­ing Par­lia­ment’s port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on trans­port tasked with prob­ing al­le­ga­tions of state cap­ture at the state-owned rail agency.

With­out go­ing into specifics, Maswan­ganyi said re­ports by Na­tional Trea­sury and pri­vate at­tor­neys on in­ves­ti­ga­tions as or­dered by then pub­lic pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela af­ter find­ing for­mer Prasa chief ex­ec­u­tive Lucky Mon­tana and of­fi­cials guilty of fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment, were still out­stand­ing.

The ap­point­ment of Werks­mans At­tor­neys by the Prasa board led to a heated de­bate be­tween Maswan- ganyi, his ANC col­leagues and DA MP Manny de Fre­itas.

De Fre­itas de­fended Werks­mans’ ap­point­ment, say­ing while the bill for the firm’s ser­vices was R148 mil­lion and count­ing, it was jus­ti­fied as it had re­cov­ered at least R2 bil­lion fol­low­ing its probe and was a “good re­turn”.

Maswan­ganyi rub­bished this, say­ing: “There is no R2bn that has been re­cov­ered. There is no cover-up.

“Why do you want us to con­tinue to use the ser­vices of a com­pany ap­pointed ir­reg­u­larly? You are a cor­rup­tion-buster but you want to de­fend an ir­reg­u­larly ap­pointed ser­vice provider, that is dou­ble stan­dards.”

ANC MPs wanted to know if ser­vices were pro­vided to com­muters, thou­sands of whom were left stranded daily be­cause of train de­lays or can­cel­la­tions when of­fi­cials were fo­cus­ing on probes.

Maswan­ganyi said a turn­around plan would be given to Par­lia­ment.

Prasa was cur­rently en­gaged in sev­eral court bat­tles. Ear­lier this year, a high court ruled that a ten­der process for new lo­co­mo­tives was rigged to favour Swifambo Rail Leas­ing, the mid­dle man be­tween Prasa and the Span­ish man­u­fac­turer of the trains.

Werks­mans, on Prasa’s be­half, de­manded Swifambo pay back R2.6bn but Swifambo was ap­peal­ing the rul­ing.

In an­other court bat­tle, the for­mer board went to court to com­pel the Hawks to fast­track its probe into cor­rup­tion at Prasa.

Maswan­ganyi told MPs that re­ports on in­ves­ti­ga­tions by Na­tional Trea­sury into more than 100 Prasa con­tracts, sus­pected to be ir­reg­u­lar, would be pro­vided when it be­came avail­able.

Mean­while, the par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into Eskom heard Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Lynne Brown took in­struc­tions from the Gupta broth­ers and or­dered the board not to sus­pend its for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive Mat­shela Koko.

Khu­lani Qoma, the now sus­pended spokesper­son for the Eskom board, said he had ear­lier this year urged board chair­per­son Zethembe Khoza to sus­pend Koko be­cause of the rep­u­ta­tional dam­age he be­lieved he was caus­ing the util­ity.

Qoma said Khoza read­ily agreed that it should be done but cau­tioned that for­mer Eskom chair­per­son Ben Ngubane had also wanted to move against Koko but was blocked by Brown.

“He says to me be­cause Min­is­ter Brown is cap­tured, (she) re­ports to the Gup­tas and then he tells me about the new board mem­bers. He says on June 23, which would have been the date of the AGM, four board mem­bers are go­ing to be an­nounced and those board mem­bers have been ap­pointed by the Gup­tas.”

Qoma said Khoza then switched to Zulu and added the board mem­bers were so young that they looked like school­child­ren. “He then tells me that ac­tu­ally Dr Ngubane came close to sus­pend­ing Koko…”

He said Ngubane had per­suaded the rest of the board this was the cor­rect course of ac­tion. But the Gupta broth­ers were called to in­form them of the de­ci­sion and they called Brown, who in turn called Ngubane, or­der­ing him not to do it, Qoma added. – ANA

Joe Maswan­ganyi

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