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A judge in the High Court in Pretoria has severely criticised the Hawks for wasting taxpayers’ money on “inappropriate and irresponsible” legal skirmishes in a dispute centring on their failure to conclude an investigation into alleged corruption at the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).
Instead of filing opposing papers in Prasa’s bid, aimed at ensuring the proper investigation and prosecution of persons allegedly involved in corrupt activities involving about R14 billion at Prasa, the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI, or Hawks) attacked Prasa’s authority to launch the application.
Judge Norman Davis dismissed the DPCI’s complaint and ruled that the Prasa board, then chaired by Popo Molefe, had properly authorised the legal action.
He gave the DPCI five days to file its answering affidavit in the main application, and also granted leave to the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) to intervene as a co-applicant in the matter.
Davis not only ordered the DPCI to pay Outa’s legal costs, but also ordered it to pay Prasa’s costs on a punitive scale.
He described the dispute about Prasa’s authority, which incurred huge additional costs and delayed the main application by more than nine months, as deplorable and unreasonable and said it constituted an irresponsible and wasteful type of litigation by an organ of state.
Investigations by former public protector Thuli Madonsela, the auditor-general and forensic investigators appointed by the Prasa board revealed fruitless, wasteful or irregular expenditure of between R9 billion and R14 billion in tenders awarded by the then Prasa CEO Lucky Montana to the Siyangena and Swifambo companies between 2009 and 2013.
The Swifambo contract, which was set aside by the court last year, became synonymous with the delivery of trains that were too tall for South Africa’s rail standards, while the Siyangena contract had to do with the installation of high speed passenger gates at over 60 stations throughout the country.
The Prasa board resolved to take legal action after the complaints it filed with the police were referred to the Hawks, but were then met with what it described as a dilatory, lackadaisical and disorganised investigation.
Prasa and Outa want the court to force the DPCI to finalise its investigation, in cooperation with the National Prosecuting Authority, into the complaints.
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