Treasury probe into costly PR tender for Prasa
The National Treasury wants the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa to come clean on how a little-known public relations company was hired at R250, 000 a month, without following procedures, to buff its battered image. Two weeks ago, the Sunday Times revealed that Prasa had hired the Centurion-based company Fore Front Solutions, which does not have a website or known track record, without following the prescribed Treasury rules.story_article_left1Two days later, the Treasury's chief director for governance, monitoring and compliance, Solly Tshitangano, wrote to acting Prasa group CEO Nkosinathi Khena demanding that he hand over documents including Fore Front's appointment letter, minutes of bid committee meetings and copies of invoices paid.The move comes on the eve of the release of public protector Thuli Madonsela's report on billions of rands in tender irregularities at Prasa under axed CEO Lucky Montana.She is expected to release her report tomorrow.Tshitangano said Prasa's chief procurement officer had "received information that the above-mentioned tender was not properly evaluated and adjudicated"."It is expected of the National Treasury to review the bidding process to verify compliance with Treasury norms and standards," Tshitangano wrote.The Sunday Times asked Fore Front Solutions director Tebogo Mosupye how he had known about the tender despite it not having been advertised, who approached whom, and what his relationship with Prasa spokesman Sipho Sithole was.He replied: "As a matter of principle we never presume to understand the complete reasons behind our client's choices to secure our services, including the internal compliance processes followed by a client."He said Prasa had to explain "how and why they sourced our services".block_quotes_start Why must I be used to try to legitimise unbecoming behaviour? I don't understand that block_quotes_endSithole said Prasa had "not responded to Treasury yet" but would do so next week."We followed the proper internal procurement processes," he said.Mosupye said neither Sithole nor any other Prasa employee was connected to the company and this could be verified by the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission.Prasa's decision to hire an obscure PR agency to duplicate its own communication team's functions was one of the grievances raised by staff who picketed outside the rail agency's offices in Pretoria on Wednesday.Prasa communications manager Moffet Mofokeng and senior manager for stakeholder relations Anele Mda led a group of disgruntled staffers who publicly called on the Presidency to reinstate Montana and fire the board.Mofokeng said the company was "useless" and "out of its depth".story_article_right2"In my view, my colleagues are justified in objecting to [Fore Front's] appointment."Prasa security prevented the picketers from addressing the media in a boardroom without permission on Wednesday.Mofokeng laid criminal charges against Prasa's head of corporate security, Jama Matakata, for allegedly manhandling him and tearing his jacket during an altercation.Matakata confirmed that police took a statement from him in connection with a case of assault, but dismissed Mofokeng's claims as "fiction of his own imagination"."Why must I be used to try to legitimise unbecoming behaviour? I don't understand that. I don't know what his problem is," Matakata said.The incident led to Prasa suspending Mofokeng and Mda.The two will be challenging their suspension.