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Prasa to open criminal cases against those implicated in ghost employees scam

29 March 2022 - 16:22
Prasa told parliament it will open criminal cases against those involved in a ghost employees scam. File photo.
Prasa told parliament it will open criminal cases against those involved in a ghost employees scam. File photo.
Image: Supplied

The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) is looking to open criminal cases regarding the 3,000 “ghost employees” it has uncovered in its system.

News of the ghost workers broke last week when transport minister Fikile Mbalula spoke to parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa). He told the committee the ghost workers were uncovered in the system during the Operation Ziveze investigation and the salaries were stopped in December last year.

Addressing Scopa on Tuesday, Prasa board chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane told MPs the entity was at phase 2 of its investigation and would look at opening criminal charges.

“The second phase would require forensics and that would require police to get involved because it's critical to find out where the money went,” said Ramatlakane.

He told the committee of plans to recover the millions paid as per the recommendations of the auditor-general.

Acting group CEO David Mphelo told the committee they were investigating whether the ghost workers were South Africans.

“Where they are not South Africans, do they have permits to be in the country? We have just under 2,000 where we see there is no evidence of physical verification. We are looking into these individuals.

“We are looking at when were they registered and who loaded them in the system for salary purposes,” he said.

Mphelo said they have already identified 62 foreign nationals, some of whom have fraudulent identities and expired permits.

He said the investigation would give them information on when the ghost employees were loaded on to the system to quantify how much Prasa lost in the scam. They would hand over the names of those who loaded the names of the ghost employees to the police to be charged for fraud and identity theft. Further information would be provided to the Special Investigating Unit.

“It could be a racket or a syndicate. We are analysing that,” said Mphelo.

Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa called for a diplomatic intervention to deal with the issue of foreign nationals involved in the scam. 

Mbalula told the committee that Prasa was a mess and he had told the board and management about his unhappiness.

“We know the problem, Prasa is a capital-intensive company. If you don't resolve procurement, you are dead. You deal with money there, billions every day and we cannot afford to lose a cent,” he said.

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