The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) will table a resolution to the National Assembly to declare the former interim board and previous boards of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) as delinquent directors to prevent their appointment on any other board of directors in the future.
This after Scopa was briefed on Wednesday about the financial management and regression of Prasa’s audit findings by administrator Bongisizwe Mpondo who was appointed by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula in December.
Last year, Auditor-General (AG) Kimi Makwetu gave Prasa the worst possible audit finding – a disclaimer. This meant Prasa’s financial affairs were in such a state that the AG could not provide an opinion.
Mpondo said they are “deeply concerned” about this audit finding. “Prasa is a broken organisation with no policies, systems, controls, unnecessary duplications.”
He described the problems as self-inflicted and mostly internal.
“There has been instability in the business since 2015 particularly at leadership level, both at board and management levels,” read Mpondo’s presentation to the committee.
He said there was no accountability.
Prasa could not also furnish the AG with the minutes of its board meetings for the 2018/19 financial year.
MPs serving on Scopa were dumbfounded when they learnt the board had failed to adopt the minutes of its board meetings, except for special ones.
A member of Prasa’s management team told the committee the board would argue about the content of the minutes, and when it was suggested they should go back to the recordings, they could not agree on that.
ANC MP Bheki Hadebe said there was “something strange” when board meetings’ minutes were not approved, except the minutes of special ones.
“It does not give us an indication of accountability,” he added. “Perhaps, that special meetings had to do with tenders. It can’t be a coincidence that only special meetings were approved.”
The committee also heard there were several investigations by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and Hawks, and by Prasa internally.
Mpondo said they hoped to recover some funds with the help of the SIU.
The SIU is preparing charges in 20 cases involving 60 employees. Of these, one is suspended, five have been dismissed, 17 resigned and 37 are still active.
The Hawks are investigating 21 cases.
After the meeting, Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said in a statement the committee would begin a “fully fledged parliamentary inquiry” to establish when these problems started at Prasa. The committee believes it started before the previous interim board.
“Furthermore, the committee believes that it is important to go as far back as necessary,” read the statement.
The committee will ask parliamentary legal services to assist.