A witness testifying at the commission of inquiry into state capture on Thursday told its chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that there were a number of individuals who had undue influence at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), which was a concern.
The witness, Fani Dingiswayo, a Prasa official at the agency’s legal department who is currently on suspension, said during former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana’s tenure there were “holy cows”, service providers, who were treated favourably and some continue to have influence at the agency.
Dingiswayo said these individuals included businessmen Roy Moodley and Makhensa Mabunda.
Moodley is said to be linked to former president Jacob Zuma.
Dingiswayo told the commission that it was once “whispered” in his ear that he should not closely scrutinise a contract Prasa had with Siyaya, an entity linked to Mabunda.
He said everything that related to these service providers, from procurement to contracting, was treated favourably.
He noted that the public protector’s report titled ‘Derailed’ also pointed out that at the time normal practice was flouted, with contracts not vetted by the legal department at Prasa.
“Its key contracts in the organisation,” Dingiswayo said, adding that even during meetings, these service providers would give Prasa officials “looks” suggesting that if they, the officials, did not toe the line they would be reported.
Dingiswayo said this meant officials at Prasa could not do their work properly.
The commission heard from Dingiswayo that Montana and Mabunda had worked together at the department of public enterprises and that when Montana moved to the department of transport, Mabunda then went into business and scored a contract at the said department.
Montana’s move to Prasa saw Mabunda also score contracts at the agency, “and this is very key work,” Dingiswayo said.
He said Prasa’ entire technical division was outsourced to Mabunda’s entity.
He said the contract he had been cautioned not to scrutinise closely was “strange” because Mabunda’s entity was paid 20 cents for every litre of petroleum products Prasa used when a more favourable price could have been an option.
“That’s when somebody said don’t look too closely,” Dingiswayo said.
He said Mabunda’s entity benefitted something in the tune of R1 billion from Prasa.
Dingiswayo said it was shocking that Mabunda had roped in a person working for a law firm, DM5, to advise Prasa on a contract between the agency an entity closely associated to him, Mabunda.
“There were quite a number of people,” Dingiswayo said on the individuals who had undue influence at Prasa, he described them as “major role players”.
“These people would be said to have some free reign in the Prasa building,” he said, explaining that they would rock up to the agency’s premises at any time, especially when there issues of them being paid late.
The undue influence these persons had continued even after Montana’s departure, they “carried on being special”, Dingiswayo said.
“The trends are the same, the people who get vilified in the organisation for doing their work are the same,” Dingiswayo said.
During his time as Prasa CEO, Montana “created a nice parallel structure where he could do these deals in”, the witness said.
The commission has adjourned for lunch.