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By Nicholas Zaal

Digital Journalist

SIU to investigate Home Affairs and Prasa

The Special Investigating Unit will look at allegations going back 10 years in the case of Home Affairs and 14 years in the case of Prasa.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been authorised to investigate allegations of maladministration and unlawful conduct by officials at the Department of Home Affairs and Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed two proclamations authorising in light of these allegations, with the unit also having the goal to recover any financial losses suffered by the state going back at least 10 years in the case of Homes Affairs and 14 years in the case of Prasa.

“The SIU will also investigate improper or unlawful conduct by officials or employees of Home Affairs in relation to the installation of T200 firewalls,” a statement from the SIU read.

Home Affairs: Permits, visas and citizenship

“Proclamation 154 of 2024 empowers the SIU to probe serious maladministration in connection with the affairs of Home Affairs relating to the issuance of — permanent residence permits; corporate visas; business visas; critical/exceptional skills work visas; study visas; retired persons’ visas; work visas; and citizenship by naturalisation, contrary to the Immigration Act, 2002; the South African Citizenship Act, 1995; manuals, guidelines, circulars, practice notes or instructions applicable to Home Affairs; or manuals, policies, procedures, prescripts, instructions or practices of or applicable to the Department,” the statement continued.

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The proclamation covers allegations of unlawful and improper conduct between 12 October 2004 and 16 February 2024, though investigations also cover dates before or after this period if they are relevant to matters, entities or contracts being investigated.

Prasa: Tenders, trains, security and claims

Proclamation 153 of 2024 empowers the SIU to probe offences that were committed against the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004 in connection with the affairs of Prasa in relation to the award of tenders for the supply of various train locomotives to Swifambo Rail Leasing Pty Ltd, and the supply and maintenance of an integrated security access management system at various train stations to Siyangena Technologies Pty Ltd.

“The SIU will also investigate serious maladministration in the affairs of Prasa relating to fraudulent liability claims processed and paid by Prasa’s Group Insurance Department, including claims paid as one time vendor payments. The probe will also extend to employment of ghost employees identified by Prasa’s Project Zivese in August 2021.

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“The Proclamation covers allegations of unlawful and improper conduct that took place between 1 January 2010 and 16 February 2024, the date of the publication of the Proclamation or before 1 January 2010 and after the date of the Proclamation that are relevant to, connected with, incidental to the matters or involves the same persons, entities or contracts investigated.”

The unit will also identify system failures and make recommendations to improve measures to prevent future losses.

Furthermore, any evidence pointing to criminal conduct that is uncovered will be referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

“The SIU is empowered by the SIU Act to institute civil action in the High Court or a Special Tribunal in its name to correct any wrongdoing uncovered during its investigation caused by acts of corruption, fraud, or maladministration.”

Years of neglect

Benoni station currently lies in ruin, with piles of rubble, human faeces, discarded underpants and yellowed shirts found about the place despite a promise from Prasa in 2021 that the station would be fixed and restored by the end of the 2023 fiscal year.

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The promised fence to cordon off the station never materialised. Again, the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) prioritised other sites that are operational, said spokesperson Andiswa Makanda.

But the state-owned company now says it is in “a design phase” with R7 million earmarked to restore the station to functionality.

Caught red-handed

In January, an Upington Home Affairs official was busted for allegedly selling illegal identity documents to foreign nationals.

The 37-year-old woman was caught in action by the Anti-Corruption Investigating Unit (ACIU) after the unit received a tip-off about her illegal dealings.

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Additional reporting by: Hein Kaiser and Enkosi Selane

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