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By Citizen Reporter

Journalist


Prasa corruption probe cost R148m, board chair accuses Hawks of inaction

The rail agency's board chairperson says the unit is failing to investigate evidence of billions of rands in procurement irregularities to protect ‘thieves and looters’.


The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has forked out R148 million to Werksmans Attorneys for its probe relating to alleged corruption at the state-owned company.

The Times reported on Wednesday that this was revealed in a written parliamentary reply to a question by Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi, responding to DA transport spokesperson Manny de Freitas, who wanted to know if the investigation had been terminated.

The probe by Werksmans, which was commissioned by the rail agency’s board, comes on the back of claims by its chairperson, Popo Molefe, that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), better known as the Hawks, are not taking action to investigate evidence of billions of rands in procurement irregularities at Prasa to protect “thieves and looters”.

eNCA reported that Molefe said the parastatal’s own private investigations revealed how evidence and records on multibillion-rand tenders were destroyed shortly before he and his board took over. He said the board’s former chairperson, Sfiso Buthelezi, now deputy finance minister, should be held accountable for the malfeasance at Prasa during his time as board chair.

“The records of Prasa are in shambles, but during that period, when we came in, they were deliberately destroyed as we showed, that we had to retrieve about 1.4 billion documents through forensic investigation,” Molefe said.

“There was an IT specialist who was there, who worked with the former group CEO [Lucky Montana]. His business was to wipe out all information.”

Molefe told the broadcaster he believed there was blatant evidence of large-scale corruption at the rail agency, which apparently might be far greater than the controversial arms deal saga.

According to recent media reports, Buthelezi and his brother, Nkanyiso Buthelezi, allegedly benefited from shipping and logistics contracts worth at least R150 million from Prasa while he was its chairperson. The pair have both denied the allegations against them.

It also emerged at the weekend that National Treasury’s chief procurement officer had recommended that the deputy finance minister face prosecution for alleged repeated violations of the Public Finance Management Act. Treasury reportedly found that out of 216 contracts it probed at Prasa, only 13 were above board.

Prasa has taken legal action against the Hawks to force the priority crime unit to finalise its two-year investigation into irregular expenditure, adding up to more than R14 billion. The unit has dismissed the claims by Prasa’s board.

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