The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has racked up irregular expenditure of R148 million on forensic investigations into the agency’s alleged corruption and maladministration.
According to a written response given to the state parliament, the forensic investigations into affairs at Prasa has amounted to R148m over two financial years.
The written response to the parliamentary questions was submitted by Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi who was asked by Archibold Figlan from the Democratic Alliance to give in details the total amount budgeted for the investigations and the time-frames among, other things.
According to the written documents, aside from the R148m investigation costs in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years, an additional R14m has been budgeted for the current financial year.
Prasa is currently being investigated for irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure identified by the auditor-general for the 2014/15 financial year that amounted to R500m, led by Werksmans Attorneys, explained Maswanganyi.
“To date, the [Prasa] board has instituted seven court actions and forwarded 41 reports [flowing from the investigations to the Directorate of Priority Crimes for further criminal investigations,”
In addition, four internal disciplinary actions have been instituted against employees, said the transport minister in his response to the parliamentary questions.
Fin24 earlier reported Prasa board chairperson Popo Molefe as saying that although the costs of the investigations were high, Prasa had no other options for the agency’s investigations left for them to have the investigation concluded as it involves R14bn of irregular transactions.
The news about Prasa’s irregular expenditure grew last year as the agency was reported to have spent R14 billion in its annual report.
The report also had it that in the 2015/16 financial year, Prasa incurred an irregular expenditure of R4.1bn, but an additional R9bn was identified in the same report that related to previous years.
It could be recalled that in August 2016, former Eskom Boss Brian Molefe told the parliamentary committee that the controversial investigations were “massive” and that they had uncovered irregular confinements of some 120 instances.
Former Transport Minister Elizabeth Dipuo Peters criticised the Prasa board for allowing public money to be spent in such a fashion.
Before she was replaced with Minister Joe Maswanganyi, during Zuma’s controversial cabinet reshuffle, Peters dissolved the agency’s board saying she was concerned that the investigation seemed endless and without a clear scope and a specific goal.
She also said the former board had failed to determine a deadline and a budget for the investigation and that her department had written to the board to demand that it manage the irregular expenditure.
The forensic investigation into Prasa followed former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s damning report, titled Derailed, which she released in August 2015.
In the report, the public Protector found widespread evidence of maladministration, improper conduct and nepotism at Prada. She instructed the rail agency and the Treasury to investigate all Prasa contracts valued above R10-million.
Peters, however, denied former Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe’s claims that the board was dissolved to frustrate its investigations.
“The historical information is there. The management of Prasa is still in place. The acting group chief executive is also the company secretary, so the institutional memory is there. There is no prejudice the investigation will suffer as a result of this intervention,” she said.