Mbalula trumpets turning point as new boss aims to put Prasa back on track

27 February 2021 - 14:41 By philani nombembe
Zolani Kgosie Matthews was unveiled as the new Prasa group CEO at Langa station in Cape Town on February 27 2021.
Zolani Kgosie Matthews was unveiled as the new Prasa group CEO at Langa station in Cape Town on February 27 2021.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has vowed to turn the embattled Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) around.

Mbalula made the pledge on Saturday in Langa, Cape Town, where he introduced the new Prasa group CEO, Zolani Kgosie Matthews.

He said Prasa has not had a permanent CEO since the departure of Lucky Montana in 2015.

“In 12 years of its existence Prasa has experienced many challenges that became pronounced in 2015/16,” said Mbalula.

“Irregular expenditure stood at R4.1bn alongside fruitless expenditure of R541m. This period was also characterised by dissonance at the highest levels of the organisation, characterised by tensions between the board and management.”

Mbalula said the Hawks had also started a number of investigations initiated by Prasa, into a number of issues.

“The downward spiral continued in 2016/17 where Prasa had two boards in a single financial year. The relationship between the minister at the time and the board reached an all-time low, resulting in the minister dismissing the board, replacing it with an interim board in March 2017, which was short-lived.

“Irregular expenditure stood at R19.6bn, an increase from R14.8bn in 2015/16. The auditor-general reflected that instability in the entity, 'including the board control, negatively contributed to the decline in the financial management, performance reporting and compliance processes and the overall collapse of the internal controls within the public entity as a result of inadequate and ineffective oversight’. Fruitless expenditure escalated to R181m.”

Mbalula added: “In 2017/18, Prasa had four boards in a single year. This perpetuated instability. Irregular expenditure stood at R23.4bn, an increase from R19.6bn the previous year. Similarly, fruitless and wasteful expenditure escalated to R1bn, up from R988m the previous year.”

He said SA’s commuter infrastructure “has been completely run down as a result of theft and vandalism”.

“The most urgent task confronting us is to get trains back in service,” he said.

“We are under no illusion about the huge economic impact on the working class and low-income households affected by non-operation of our services. Corridors such as Soweto, Ekurhuleni, Mabopane, Germiston, Tembisa and [Cape Town's] central line remain our priorities in restoring the service.”

Matthews also vowed to do his best to restore SA’s commuter rail system.

“We know that delivering reliable rail and affordable public transport is central to our economic performance,” he said. “Our overarching priority is to put passengers at the heart of all we do.”