Prasa board 'shocked' by Public Protector's report

Thomas Hartleb, News24

Pretoria - The board of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) is shocked by the Public Protector’s findings of large-scale maladministration at the parastatal, its chairperson said on Thursday.

“We are a new board. We only became aware, seriously, of the Public Protector’s investigation in March this year, even though it started in 2012,” Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe told reporters in Pretoria.

It received formal documents relating to the report on March 15, six months before Thuli Madonsela released her report, entitled “Derailed”.

Asked about the difficulties Madonsela’s office had in getting information from the Prasa, Molefe said the requests went through fired chief executive Lucky Montana’s office.

“He was the only one who communicated with the office of the Public Protector. Whether those employees wilfully withheld information is unknown to us,” he said.

Madonsela’s report implicates Montana in several cases of maladministration and tender irregularities. She recommended that disciplinary action be taken against him.

Molefe said Prasa had asked National Treasury to send it a chief procurement officer and was looking at its supply chain management systems in a bid to fix its problems.

A qualifications audit would also be undertaken after its human resources department apparently let some employees “fall through the cracks”.

Chief engineer Daniel Mthimkhulu resigned recently after his academic qualifications were found to be nonexistent. Molefe said another individual had since been identified who claimed to have a doctorate, which appeared to be fraudulent.

Prasa is considering legal steps regarding some of the remedial action Madonsela mentioned in her report. It is taking disciplinary steps against employees implicated in wasteful and fruitless expenditure.

Madonsela found that 19 of the 32 complaints against Prasa were substantiated. There was a "systematic failure" to comply with supply chain management policies and a culture of hiding information.