Probes of Prasa off the rails
So many that government ‘has lost plot’
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