Prasa boss Lucky Montana lied to the board and hid crucial information - Zondo inquiry told

12 March 2020 - 14:52 By ZINGISA MVUMVU
Former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana. File photo.
Former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times/Esa Alexander

Former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana operated with an iron fist at the state company, concealed crucial information from the board, lied to its members  and oversaw the illegal sacking of 500 workers.

That's according to former Prasa board chair Popo Molefe in his testimony at the Zonda commission.

On his appointment in August 2014, Molefe said he and the board requested existing contracts that Prasa had signed from Montana. But Montana played cat and mouse with the board, refusing to submit contracts or documents.

This led to the board directly contacting Webber Wentzel, who had provided legal services to Prasa related to a R51bn contract for the manufacturing of new trains known as Gibela.

This move too did not yield the board's desired results as the law firm had only a single copy for their use and was unable to give the board a copy of the contract.

“As the board of directors it is well and good to say the management has done a presentation about the contract ... you would still want to know what does the contract commit us to,” said Molefe.

“We are empowered as the board to exercise due diligence when we deal with these matters. We never got the contract to be given to us. Webber Wentzel said they had given the contract to Prasa, what they had was their own copy.”

As if this was not enough, the board then required information that would assure them that a R4bn contract for rail modernisation had been entered into correctly.

To get this assurance, he said, they requested a probity report which Montana promised to give to the board.

While Montana was away and Martha Ngoyi was acting in his position, the board was told there was no probity report.

In fact, Prasa at the time had not had a probity officer for 12 months.

Montana had effectively lied to the board and thus the board took a decision to cancel the contract.

Molefe said his board had also discovered that on Montana's arrival at Prasa, 500 workers had been fired.

He said though Montana was not the one who directly fired staff, he ought to have taken responsibility as the person who was in charge of operational matters at the state company.

The labour court ruled the sacking was illegal and ordered the reinstatement of the staff.

“I met the leader of the National Transport Movement Union [to whom the fired workers were affiliated] and they estimated that it would cost us R500m to do the reinstatement,” said Molefe.

The former Prasa board chair also told the commission on Wednesday that Montana's grip on Prasa was so strong that he had appointed himself as the chairperson of both the organisation's subsidiaries — Autopax and Intersite Investments.

Ultimately, Montana had free, unilateral and authoritative reign at Prasa.

Molefe continues to give testimony.