Details are beginning to emerge of a heated exchange between Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) board and former head of Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), also known as the Hawks, in the days leading to the sacking of the entire Prasa board by former transport minister Dipuo Peters.
In a strongly worded letter written by the chairperson of the board, Dr Popo Molefe, addressed to former head of Hawks, General Berning Ntlemeza, on the 13th of February 2017, Molefe raises pointed issues with the now fired Ntlemeza and demands concomitant corrective action be taken.
“In light of the nature of the matters, I am deeply concerned that South African citizens and the fiscus are prejudiced by the fact that the DPCI has done nothing tangible to respond effectively to these matters, despite Prasa’s ongoing cooperation and assistance.”
Molefe then proceeded to impress upon Ntlemeza that, with regards to full history of investigations into Swifambo and Siyangena matters, “Prasa contends that DPCI has failed reasonably to comply with its constitutional and statutory obligations to investigate these matters and to bring the investigations to finality”.
The Prasa chair also reminded Ntlemeza that, should this status quo prevail, persons alleged to be responsible for national priority offences have not been held to account, and “there is a serious risk that the ability to recover significant public funds with recourse” is, or may soon be, compromised.
The two matters were flagged by former public protector Thuli Madonsela in her ‘Derailed’ report, and the board was requested to recoup irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred during Lucky Montana’s tenure as Prasa group chief executive officer (GCEO). Simultaneously, two cases were opened: the Swifambo matter at Hillbrow Police Station in Johannesburg and the Siyangena matter at Brooklyn Police Station in Pretoria.
At the core of Molefe and the board’s discontent is SAPS and Hawks citing lack of resources and the board having failed to open a police case itself. An employee and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) opened a case and also forwarded a complaint to the Public Protector.
To expedite the investigation, Prasa offered a service provider, Howarth Forensics, a firm of forensic chartered accounts, to be managed by SAPS and remunerated for services offered to police by Prasa. As the case was initially opened by Philemon Mamabolo earlier this year, General Khana, head of the commercial crimes unit, informed Molefe there was an issue with Prasa reporting on a matter that was opened by one of its employees without mandate from the board and management.
“Although Mr Mamabolo provided the initial statement in CAS 405/07/2015 [Swifambo, Hillbrow] on his own volition, he subsequently provided detailed statements in respect of both Swifambo and Siyangena matters mandated by Prasa on 28th September and 23 March 2016 respectively,” Molefe wrote.
Molefe also emphasised to Ntlemeza that General Khana, through his correspondence, shows that he is either not acquainted with details of an investigation he has been leading for a year or is “deliberately seeking to frustrate the effective investigation of the matters and their finalisation”.
In the Siyangena case, Mamabolo alleged through a sworn affidavit that former GCEO Lucky Montana, Daniel Mthimkhulu and Josephat Phungula (chief procurement officer) fraudulently awarded Siyangena Technologies (Pty) Ltd, a company owned by Mario Ferreira, a contract of R2,9 billion. This was for installation and maintenance of CCTV cameras and equipment for control rooms at Prasa train stations. Mamabolo alleged it was for purposes of sharing the monetary proceeds from that contract with Siyangena Technologies in contravention of Prevention of Corruption Act.
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It is further alleged Montana and his mother, Mary Montana, occupied a house in Pretoria owned by Riaan van der Walt, a legal advisor to Siyangena. He is accused of buying the house for the beneficial use and occupation by Mary Montana from the proceeds of the contract of R2,9 billion fraudulently awarded to Siyangena.
Molefe implored Ntlemeza to use the service of the forensic chartered accountants to conduct financial analysis of bank accounts of accused persons.
“At least six months before the issuing of the tender for the speed gates, a supplier of Siyangena knew about this tender and confirmed that Siyangena was its sole distributor for the ‘Prasa project’,” Molefe continued. He also lists a number of properties allegedly procured with proceeds of crime and urges Khana to utilise Howarth Forensics.
“It is public knowledge that Lucky Montana is Van Der Walt’s business partner, an attorney in the employ of Siyangena. Forensic analysis of cash flow must be conducted,” he elaborated.
The Swifambo matter required cash-flow analysis, Molefe advised. R460 526 315 was paid to Swifambo Rail Holdings with no services rendered. Auditor General later opined they should not have been contracted, or remunerated, as there was no enforceable contract. The company had no B-BBEE certificate and tax clearance. “Unsolicited information alleges the director was instructed to pay people who did not have any business dealings with Swifambo,” Molefe said.
A forensic investigator at O’Sullivan & Associates, another private investigator which at some point tipped off Molefe to halt irregular payments on Siyangena and Swifambo transactions, told The Citizen, “Absolutely, we got wind of the letter and a week later the entire board was gone. Had Molefe not taken the former minister to court and won, the entire Prasa investigation will be dead in the water. There are also payments made to Zuma’s ally, Roy Moodley, we are investigating that.”
The man at the centre of the storm, Lucky Montana, sounded upbeat when asked whether he is aware that the Prasa board accused Hawks of protecting some suspects in the Prasa scandal. “I can confirm three things to you. I have never been contacted by anyone or interviewed as a witness. The investigation by Molefe is fruitless, waste of taxpayers’ money and absolute nonsense. Finally, this investigation is a witchhunt and bound to fail,” he said and reminded The Citizen he has all the time.
Dr Molefe confirmed to The Citizen that shortly after dispatching the letter to Ntlemeza’s office in Silverton, he received a call from General Khana. “In the call, he admitted that he will use our forensic accounting help. He admitted that he has been dragging his feet. A few days later my entire board was gone.”
Molefe said he is not incurring irregular expenditure on the services of the firm as “we needed it to reconstruct records of the company destroyed by previous management. So, in terms of that no, because they are currently busy in our offices doing work we have given them.”
Molefe confirmed that he wrote to Fikile Mbalula and Yolisa Mtakata and was awaiting their response.
Hangwani Mulaudzi, spokesperson for the acting head of Hawks, Yolisa Matakata, acknowledged the correspondence from Molefe. “This matter has been dealt with long time. In short there are people (witnesses) that were informed not to cooperate with us and this is what is delaying the investigations.
“The acting national head has a lot on her plate, many cases to deal with and I am sure she will in due course make a determination on how to take the matter forward. To say that we are dragging our feet is not correct.”