Zuma, Ramaphosa and ANC stood by while Prasa was plundered, says Zondo
Board was on its own fighting corruption at the rail agency, says state capture report
The state capture commission has lashed out at former president Jacob Zuma and his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, for not intervening when the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) board was fighting acts of corruption in the state-owned enterprise.
In his final instalment of the state capture report, handed to Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings on Wednesday evening, commission chair chief justice Raymond Zondo said there were at least two general themes that emerged from evidence heard by the commission concerning Prasa.
“First, a pattern developed at Prasa that allowed influential individuals and/or entities in which they or their family members had an interest to benefit unduly, especially in respect of the procurement of goods and services,” the report stated.
“It is known that at some institutions employees or officials who resisted acts of state capture or corruption were victimised and often hounded out. That also happened at Prasa. However, what is most worrisome is this: it was also the fate of its board under the chairmanship of Popo Molefe from 2014 to 2017 when it sought to put Prasa right and instil a new and ‘cleaner culture’.”
The report stated that within a few months of taking office, the new board declined to approve the awarding of two contracts, with a combined value of R4bn, to service providers that a committee of the board had recommended should be awarded the contracts.
“This board was on its own fighting corruption at Prasa. The then president Jacob Zuma gave it no support. The then deputy president of the ANC and of the country, now President Cyril Ramaphosa, gave it no support. Indeed, all the top six officials of the ANC gave it no support. The parliamentary portfolio committee on transport was openly hostile to this board,” the commission report stated.
It said former transport minister Dipuo Peters became hostile “to this board and fired it through a letter read out in the portfolio committee on transport in parliament when the board went to have a meeting with the committee”.
“The board had to go to court to get reinstated. The next minister [Joe] Maswanganyi was worse. He rendered it dysfunctional.”
The state capture report stated that those who were pursuing acts of maladministration and corruption at Prasa were so determined not to be disturbed in their agenda that when a few men and women tried to resist this and insist on compliance with the law or on doing the right things, “they were unfairly suspended or dismissed, or their lives were made difficult”.
“These people were unable to stop the rot and weed out the wrongdoers because people who wielded public power, whether as leaders of the ruling party, cabinet ministers, MPs or members of law enforcement agencies, were obstructive, refused to assist or simply stood by when there was a duty, whether constitutional, legal or moral, to actively assist the board.”
Prasa is still reeling from years of capture under former CEO Lucky Montana, recording a R2bn loss in the financial year ending March 2021.
The company’s dire financial situation could have been worsened by the payments made to the 3,000 (20% of the workforce) ghost workers uncovered by the board earlier in 2022.
In 2020, the rail agency, which has had five turnaround strategies implemented since its creation in 2009, received a disclaimer from the auditor-general, the worst possible audit outcome. Prasa also received a disclaimer for 2018/2019 — the financial year in which it registered irregular expenditure of R27.2bn — and a qualified audit the year before.
The auditor-general’s office previously called for an urgent intervention to save Prasa after it achieved only 17.5% of its planned targets for the 2019/2020 financial year — its lowest achievement over the past eight years.
In 2020, Prasa recorded irregular expenditure of R28.6bn and fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounting to R432m.
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