Not long after his appointment as acting CEO, Collins Letsoalo, popularly known as one who would bring back Prasa to its feet through his “Mr fix-it”skills, has decided to satisfy himself with a 350% salary hike amidst financial irregularities exposed in the agency.
Report by Sunday Times news paper has it that Letsoalo, who was sworn in in July last year following a derailed state of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), secured for himself a pay cheque four times the agreed salary in just one month of his service at the agency.
Letsoalo demanded the same R5.9-million package his predecessor Montana got. Montana was fired after findings by the public protector implicating him in alleged corruption and maladministration related to tenders.
In addition to the salary hike, Letsoalo equally demanded a chauffeur-driven car and a company cell phone with unlimited calls and when the agency’s acting head of human resources tried to resist him, the interim CEO accused him of “insubordination” and had him replaced.
Included in his R5.9-million pay package is an acting allowance of about R390,000 a month. This pay rise is against the R1.3 million stated by Prasa’s chair Popo Molefe.
Letsoalo had earlier at his resumption in office, detailed that the passenger railway service has lost billions of rand to gross mismanagement and irregular contracts under former CEO Lucky Montana.
He accused Montana of gross financial misconduct and at a time, ordered that wages of Prasa employees be increased only by three percent as against the twenty percent demanded by the United National Transport Union (Untu)
However, Collins Letsoalo is not new to controversy of this kind. During his tenure as CEO of the Road Traffic Management Corporation, he was accused of lacking law-enforcement skills and dividing staff. He left the agency in 2013 after claims of receiving death threats for acting against corrupt individuals. He surfaced at the Department of Transport as chief financial officer.
Soon after his secondment to Prasa, Letsoalo immediately wrote t0 the human capital Bhekani Khumalo and moved for a pay hike
“Your telephone call of around 12h15 yesterday where you asked me to ‘give you what Montana was earning and if the board has a problem with it, they will discuss with me … ‘ has prompted me to once again confirm that I had indicated to you that I was tirelessly working hard with the chairperson of the HC [human capital] & Remco [remuneration committee] of the board to finalise this matter as there were certain things that needed to be decided upon,” Khumalo replied Letsoalo on August 4.
Letsoalo replied: “My instructions to you are clear and lawful. You are once more implored to adhere to this lawful instruction. Failure to do so will be viewed in serious light, as it is insubordination. I am also not aware that you report to the board, kindly give me such instruction and from whom this instruction comes.
“I repeat that, if the BOC has an issue, they can raise same with me, yours is to give what the GCEO’s benefits are, the salary, the allowances and all other benefits entitled to the post,” said Collins Letsoalo.
He further told Khumalo that if he continued to resist the increase, all benefits of other senior managers should be withdrawn.
“Stop all benefits of almost all senior management in Prasa as I am sure there are allegations of irregularities on how they got those packages and whether they are entitled to them, let alone being employed,” he reportedly ordered.
Though Collins Letsoalo is yet to reply to Sunday times report, Prasa spokeswoman Lillian Mofokeng said Letsoalo’s increment was approved by the board, but could not say when.
The DA’s transport spokesman, Manny de Freitas, also said it was outrageous that Letsoalo demanded to earn millions while he was failing to turn around the agency. He would raise the matter when the Prasa board and Letsoalo appear before the parliamentary transport portfolio committee on March 7.
On the same hand, the United National Transport Union (Untu) has demanded that acting CEO be fired with immediate effect to prevent further financial failures transport agency like it is the case in some other state government firms.
“Today is the saddest day in our democratic dispensation. This country has fought for the financial freedom for all, not only an exclusive few like Letsoalo. But now the powers that be are allowing this shocking abuse of taxpayers’ money to continue while Prasa employees on ground level have huge challenges to continue delivering services to hardworking commuters also trying to make a living.
“Unfortunately, if government does not act, Untu‘s membership in Prasa will have no other option than to bring Prasa services to a halt with a national protected strike to see justice to be done. The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) has already issued Untu with a strike certificate and the union can give Prasa 48 hours notice if we decide to mobilize our members,” said Untu’s general secretary Steve Harris.