The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) has missed a deadline to respond to demands by the UniteBehind Coalition. Legal action will now be taken against the agency responsible for Metrorail.
UniteBehind last week issued letters of demand to the Transport Ministry and PRASA’s interim board chairperson, Advocate Tintswalo Annah Nana Makhubele. The letters outline what UniteBehind claims to be improper decision-making practices at the embattled state-owned entity.
The minister and PRASA were given until 5pm on 11 December to respond. Neither had responded by the time of publication.
The letters come in the wake of the PRASAleaks. The leaked reports commissioned by Treasury show that of the 193 PRASA contracts over R10 million between 2010 and 2016, 185 were found to be irregular.
Improper dismissal and appointment at PRASA
UniteBehind said Transport Minister Joseph Maswanganyi’s dismissal last week of former acting PRASA Group Chief Executive Officer Lindikhaya Zide did not follow the required procedures. UniteBehind said it considered this to be a matter of public concern and intended to challenge the validity of the dismissal.
“The dismissal of Zide is part of a conspiracy to cover-up corruption,” said activist and UniteBehind member Zackie Achmat. “Zide signed-off on the court actions against corruption and his dismissal is a part of the attempt to stop the litigation against corrupt companies.”
UniteBehind said that the current interim PRASA board was appointed irregularly. It argued that according to the Legal Succession to the South African Transport Services Act 9 of 1989, there is no provision for an interim board, making the constitution of the board unlawful.
In October, UniteBehind sent a letter to Maswanganyi questioning, among other things, the process behind the selection of the interim board members.
The recent appointment of Cromet Molepo as Group Chief Executive Officer has also been challenged. UniteBehind points to Molepo’s history of alleged financial misconduct during his time as CEO of the state-owned entity Umgeni Water in KwaZulu-Natal.
Maswanganyi’s spokesperson told GroundUp that Maswanganyi would “respond to UniteBehind through the appropriate channels” but refused to answer our questions regarding the above decisions.
According to eNCA, in June 2017 Maswanganyi wrote a letter to then PRASA board members giving them seven days to justify their positions or face termination of their board membership. He did so in what he claimed were attempts to clamp down on corruption within the agency.
The previous PRASA board’s term came to an end on 31 July 2017. An official new board has yet to be named.
Suspension of PRASA’s Legal Panel
GroundUp has seen an internal PRASA document addressed to Makhubele that describes concerns with the interim board’s apparent decision to suspend PRASA’s Legal Panel.
The Legal Panel is a group of lawyers that advises PRASA on the legal consequences of its decisions.
The decision would require any legal services to be procured through PRASA’s supply chain management (SCM) department. The SCM department has been implicated in 185 irregular contracts during investigations into PRASA by 13 independent auditors.
GroundUp emailed Advocate Makhubele directly and made repeated phone calls to PRASA’s offices. On Monday evening, a PRASA official sent an email to GroundUp, but it contained no substantive response to our questions.
UniteBehind said it also contacted Yunus Carrim, Chairperson of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance, requesting that he forward the letters to all political parties. It also requested that Carrim issue a statement to alleviate public concern about corruption at PRASA.
“I have forwarded the matter to the relevant committee,” Carrim told GroundUp, adding that a full response would be made within 48 hours.
This article was originally published on GroundUp here.