Thuli tracks graft claims amid Prasa train wreck

26 July 2015 - 02:02 By PIET RAMPEDI, MZILIKAZI wa AFRIKA and STEPHAN HOFSTATTER


Public protector Thuli Madonsela has been investigating axed Prasa CEO Lucky Montana after claims that he awarded a multimillion-rand contract to a company owned by a "personal friend" and failed to take disciplinary action against a "cousin" accused of tender and appointment irregularities. Madonsela is expected to make public the findings of her three-year probe against Montana and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa next Monday.Ironically, it was the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union - which is now threatening to strike if Montana is not reinstated - that lodged the complaint with her.Satawu's accusations include that:Prasa paid R80-million up front to Fifa during the 2010 World Cup without proper approval and budget allocation;Prasa requested R2-billion from the Treasury on the pretext that it would use the money during the takeover of Shosholoza Meyl's operations, but used the money for something else;Prasa overspent by R2-billion after it improperly engaged with various construction companies for 2010 World Cup projects;A former chairman failed to declare a conflict of interest after a subsidiary of a company he headed was involved in Prasa's rolling-stock renewal programme;Montana gave a man the union said was his cousin, Stephen Ngobeni, a job at Prasa and protected him after he irregularly appointed a training contractor;Montana improperly awarded a multimillion-rand deal to a company owned by a personal friend, Makhensa Mabunda; andPrasa failed to take action against people who made unlawful electronic transfers of funds from its bank account.Montana is outraged at Madonsela's failure to dismiss the allegations of gross corruption against him. In his written response to her provisional report, "Missing Tracks", he says the protector fails to provide "an explicit and unambiguous dismissal of such an allegation".mini_story_image_hleft1He takes exception to the title of the report because it suggests there was corruption at Prasa even though he had provided Madonsela with "evidence which proved that the allegations by the complainant are blatantly false".Montana admits to governance failures and says Prasa's finances could be run better. "Prasa welcomes the provisional report and the remedial actions recommended by the office of the public protector. Prasa views these as an essential tool to assist it in improving its internal administrative and financial controls."But he bemoans the fact that Prasa is "still expected to go an extra mile to prove its innocence" instead of Madonsela placing this burden of proof on the complainants.Montana asks Madonsela to "make an express and unambiguous pronunciation on whether each of the ... allegations is true or false".In his defence Montana says that:Prasa did not pay a cent to Fifa but had a "value in kind" agreement with the soccer body that granted the rail agency marketing and sponsorship rights in return for transporting fans and executives to stadiums;Prasa followed "an open, transparent, fair and competitive bidding process" in appointing construction companies in preparation for the World Cup, and "there was never such an overspending of R2-billion and the auditor-general does not make such a finding";There was never a R2-billion subsidy allocated to Shosholoza Meyl and the allegation that this money was misspent "is simply false";Ngobeni joined Prasa long before Montana's appointment, and the men are not related;Prasa appointed Siyaya DB, a company owned by his so-called friend Mabunda, because the preferred bidder did not meet its BEE requirements and Mabunda's company was a reserved bidder;He had dealt harshly with officials implicated in the theft of funds from its bank account; andThe former chairman's company had never been appointed by Prasa for its rolling-stock renewal programme "nor is it related to any of the appointed companies".Montana says the accusations against him and Prasa are "false, baseless and defamatory".They were driven by "ulterior motives" that had nothing to do with the fight against corruption, he says .Montana says he is disappointed that even though the investigation and the outcomes revealed that the allegations of corruption or maladministration against him and Prasa were baseless, Madonsela's provisional report failed to use unambiguous language to "dispel the falseness of the allegations".story_article_right1He lambastes the main complainant, transport union Satawu, saying it clearly had an axe to grind because it had earlier released a statement demanding that the Prasa board suspend him with immediate effect. In the same statement the union boasted about getting rid of an SAA CEO, he says.This week Satawu released a statement demanding Montana's reinstatement and calling on Transport Minister Dipuo Peters to fire the Prasa board, headed by Popo Molefe."The decision by the irregular board to fire CEO Lucky Montana is illegal," said Satawu general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu. "We think Lucky Montana has done very well and certainly must be reinstated."Madonsela this week postponed the release of her final report into the accusations of tender irregularities, financial mismanagement and appointment irregularities at Prasa from Thursday to August 3.She said she decided to delay it after some of the implicated parties requested more time to make representations to her on key issues.Montana could not be reached for comment yesterday. His spokesman, Moffet Mofokeng, said he would be available at 3pm, but Montana's phone rang unanswered and he failed to respond to an SMS.investigations@sundaytimes.co.za

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