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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist


Lifestyle audits may help identify thieves in SIU’s investigation on Prasa

'SIU has sufficient forensic investigating capacity to deal with the issues at Prasa.'


Experts have welcomed the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) expanded proclamation on the financially ailing state-owned Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), saying it could lead to high-profile arrests, seizure of assets and recovery of billions in stolen public funds looted at the height of state capture. 'Zoom deep' With Prasa sliding into what Chief Justice Raymond Zondo described as a state of “almost total ruin” – among several state-owned enterprises (SOEs) fleeced during the Gupta family years of exploiting their influence on ANC political heavyweights – it has been estimated that at least R500 billion was siphoned from taxpayers’…

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Experts have welcomed the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) expanded proclamation on the financially ailing state-owned Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), saying it could lead to high-profile arrests, seizure of assets and recovery of billions in stolen public funds looted at the height of state capture.

‘Zoom deep’

With Prasa sliding into what Chief Justice Raymond Zondo described as a state of “almost total ruin” – among several state-owned enterprises (SOEs) fleeced during the Gupta family years of exploiting their influence on ANC political heavyweights – it has been estimated that at least R500 billion was siphoned from taxpayers’ money ploughed into SOEs.

As Zondo last year handed over the final instalment of the State Capture report to President Cyril Ramaphosa, he called for a special commission of inquiry into allegations of corruption at the embattled Prasa – devoting 250 pages in covering the extent of graft at the entity.

Among those fingered were former Prasa chief executive Lucky Montana, disgraced head of engineering service Daniel Mthimkhulu, chief procurement officer Chris Mbatha, former board members and the ANC for its inaction in dealing with tender irregularities and wide-scale corruption.

ALSO READ: No commission of inquiry into Prasa’s collapse for now

On what would be covered by the scope of the expanded proclamation on the fresh Prasa probe, SIU chief executive advocate Andy Mothibi said: “When we worked on the draft, we were informed by the Zondo commission report – the section dealing with Prasa was incorporated into the scope, mainly looking at the failures at the entity.

“Where there is mention of corporate failures in terms of governance, we are now going to zoom deep into that.

“We will be looking at the role of the board and directors – how they influenced failures of processes, including procurement.

“In the proclamation that is still to be officially announced, derived from the Zondo commission, we will also deal with policy failures.”

Recoveries of monies

Giving a thumbs up to the fresh SIU investigation into Prasa, experts – including Corruption Watch executive director Karam Singh, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) CEO Wayne Duvenage, University of Stellenbosch sustainable development professor Mark Swilling and independent political analyst Sandile Swana – hoped the probe would “get to the bottom” of what led to agency’s collapse, with Swana putting the blame on the ANC.

“When it comes to SIU investigations into Prasa, it will address a few areas of concern, including the recoveries of monies that have been stolen to whatever extent possible,” said Swana.

“It is important to look at lifestyle audits to clearly identify thieves at Prasa.

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“But, everything – whether it is the auditing and investigation into the supply chain management processes, or human resource systems – all of that needs a total commitment to resolve the organised crime going on at Prasa.

“The commitment needs to come from the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters, party national executive committee, the top seven leadership and the presidency.

“Advocate Paul Pretorius, who served on the Zondo commission, has recently said that state capture is continuing and that the state is assuming the features of a mafia,” said Swana. “This means that Cabinet, the ANC top seven and the [national executive committee], introducing those features into the state, with those being accentuated within Prasa.

“Prasa is crippled and made dysfunctional – a far cry to what happened 35 years ago when we used these trains comfortably within Gauteng.”

‘Far cry from its former glory’

Duvenage said: “Prasa in its current form is a far cry from its former glory and fails to serve the working class as it once did. It has been decimated by corruption, as has been partially exposed in Zondo report.

“It will take a lot of investment, time and a clean, hard-working management team to get it back to its former glory.”

Singh said the SIU was “the only law enforcement body that has a dependable and sufficient forensic investigating capacity to deal with the issues at Prasa”.

READ MORE: R60 billion needed to restore SA’s crumbling rail network

“In principle – short of having a full commission of inquiry – we should welcome the SIU’s wide-ranging proclamation and any extension to get to the bottom of problems at Prasa,” said Singh.

Swilling said: “Ever since former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report called Derailed, very little has been done to fix Prasa.

“There has been a succession of politically motivated appointments of the board and CEO, which have been completely inappropriate – leading to strategic miscalculations.”

Asked for comment on the SIU proclamation, Prasa spokesperson Andiswa Makanda said the entity’s board could respond on Monday after studying Mothibi’s remarks.

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