CityPress - - News - XOLANI MBANJWA xolani.mbanjwa@city­press.co.za

xed Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) CEO Lucky Mon­tana is con­fi­dent that Public Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into 37 al­le­ga­tions against him will prove he is not cor­rupt.

But Madon­sela’s of­fice has again post­poned the re­lease of her re­port, which City Press un­der­stands deals with sub­mis­sions made to her of­fice af­ter the Prasa boss was sus­pended. City Press un­der­stands that sus­pended ex­ec­u­tives made sub­mis­sions to Madon­sela re­gard­ing “sus­pect trans­ac­tions” and “ques­tion­able” sus­pen­sions of em­ploy­ees by Mon­tana, in­clud­ing:

Ir­reg­u­larly award­ing R23.8 bil­lion worth of ten­ders to a group of com­pa­nies that had ad­vised Prasa on how to struc­ture the con­tract, which the com­pa­nies were later awarded;

Au­tho­ris­ing an R8 mil­lion set­tle­ment, con­sid­ered to be “fruit­less and waste­ful” ex­pen­di­ture, with an ex­ec­u­tive whose con­tract was ter­mi­nated “with­out any rea­son” be­ing given;

In­sist­ing on the ir­reg­u­lar sus­pen­sion of eight ex­ec­u­tives who were then not dis­ci­plined; and

Ir­reg­u­larly award­ing an R82 mil­lion ex­ten­sion on a ten­der ini­tially worth R10 mil­lion to train Prasa em­ploy­ees, and then dis­miss­ing an ex­ec­u­tive who had ques­tioned the ex­ten­sion.

Speak­ing a day af­ter he had laid fraud charges against Prasa chair­per­son Popo Molefe and two ex­ec­u­tives, Mon­tana dis­missed all the al­le­ga­tions against him and said the Prasa board was re­spon­si­ble for au­tho­ris­ing any ten­ders over R100 mil­lion af­ter a “rig­or­ous” ad­ju­di­ca­tion process that did not in­volve him.

“As group chief ex­ec­u­tive, you can only au­tho­rise ten­ders of be­tween R25 mil­lion and R100 mil­lion. Any­thing above that goes to the board, with its own pro­cesses, for ap­proval,” he said.

Mon­tana said other al­le­ga­tions against him in­cluded that he had hired his cousin, Stephen Ngob­eni, paid an unau­tho­rised R80 mil­lion to Fifa to be­come the 2010 World Cup trans­port spon­sor, and caused a R2 bil­lion loss to Prasa on var­i­ous trans­ac­tions.

“Ngob­eni joined Metro­rail in 1995, 11 years be­fore I joined Prasa. We never paid Fifa a cent, and there was no such loss to Prasa of R2 bil­lion. I gave the Public Pro­tec­tor all the proof be­cause it’s easy to dis­prove these things,” he said.

Mon­tana claimed the real rea­son the board had ter­mi­nated his con­tract two weeks ago was be­cause Molefe “ma­nip­u­lated a co­terie of board mem­bers” af­ter Mon­tana re­fused to suc­cumb to his de­mands to ap­prove an “ir­reg­u­lar” pay­ment of R58 mil­lion to a com­pany that spon­sored a golf day for Molefe’s foun­da­tion in April.

“I’m very con­fi­dent in Madon­sela’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion. I’m happy this thing is com­ing to an end. We should ask Madon­sela what Prasa gave her [as proof] and what those who made the al­le­ga­tions gave her. They couldn’t sup­port a sin­gle one of those al­le­ga­tions and I’ve given her files. But I’m go­ing to rely on her sense of fair­ness,” he said.

“The Public Pro­tec­tor might say there’s an act of Par­lia­ment I didn’t fully com­ply with, but I’m not wor­ried about those,” Mon­tana said.

Madon­sela was ex­pected to re­lease her in­ves­tiga­tive re­port into Prasa to­mor­row, but post­poned the re­lease, cit­ing ex­ten­sive sub­mis­sions to her in­ves­ti­ga­tion to which she had yet to ap­ply her mind.

Mon­tana, who said he would only re­turn to Prasa if the board was re­moved, said his de­ci­sion to lay crim­i­nal charges against his for­mer col­leagues was not mo­ti­vated by re­venge, but by a con­tin­u­a­tion of the mea­sures he had taken against a ques­tion­able fenc­ing ten­der, which he al­leges was in­flated by nearly R100 mil­lion.

He said in the two weeks he had been out of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, the board had re­in­stated ex­ec­u­tives he sus­pended, in­clud­ing one who had au­tho­rised an ad­di­tional amount of R58 mil­lion to the fenc­ing com­pany with­out any ap­proval.

In 2012, the com­pany against which he laid charges was awarded a R209 mil­lion ten­der to fence Prasa de­pots, an award he had “strongly sup­ported”. But in June last year, the com­pany de­manded another R97 mil­lion, which had been ap­proved by another ex­ec­u­tive with­out au­tho­ri­sa­tion, Mon­tana said.

In May, Mon­tana said he dis­cov­ered that the ex­ec­u­tive had al­legedly in­creased the value of the con­tract “ir­reg­u­larly”.

He claims that board mem­bers, in par­tic­u­lar Molefe, pres­sured him to pay the com­pany, but he re­fused and in­stead sus­pended the ex­ec­u­tive, can­celled the con­tract and or­dered that Prasa re­coup any losses it had made.

“I be­lieve the chair­per­son who said it’s no longer in the in­ter­est of Prasa for me to con­tinue with my con­tract is an­gry that I de­fied the di­rec­tors who said I should pay these guys,” Mon­tana said.

“I be­lieve this to be one of the ma­jor is­sues that in­formed the chair­per­son and a co­terie of his own clique in the board to go for the kill. I’m go­ing to leave it to the po­lice when they in­ves­ti­gate.”

He chal­lenged Molefe to pub­lish his foun­da­tion’s fi­nan­cial state­ments to dis­prove his al­le­ga­tions. “I’ve fought many bat­tles and I don’t want to un­der­es­ti­mate what the long-term im­pacts of this mat­ter will be. But I’m not afraid. I think I’m built for this kind of thing and those who dream of de­liv­er­ing my head can­not, cer­tainly not in this life­time. That will be done by God,” he said.

Mon­tana also said he hoped his re­place­ment would make the right de­ci­sions to save the or­gan­i­sa­tion. “It is a dif­fi­cult job, a highly stress­ful job. But I en­joyed it be­cause I knew I gave it my best shot ev­ery day. I owed my first loy­alty to the com­pany. I’m a po­lit­i­cal an­i­mal, but I would never ma­nip­u­late de­ci­sions of the com­pany to suit pol­i­tics or party po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests. I be­lieve I’ve acted as a pro­fes­sional. In the end, I know I will win [this bat­tle]. The truth will tri­umph.”

Prasa spokesper­son Sipho Sithole said Molefe had never dis­cussed the fenc­ing ten­der pay­ments with Mon­tana, and that the sus­pended of­fi­cial who re­turned to work should never have been sus­pended in the first place.

Lucky Mon­tana

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