Johannesburg - The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has lost millions of rand to irregular and wasteful expenditure and failed to meet its own targets to make rail travel safer for passengers.
The state agency operates Metrorail, Shosholoza Meyl and struggling long-distance bus company Autopax.
Its annual report tabled this week in Parliament indicates:
l Prasa failed to meet 52 percent of its targets in the year
l Irregular expenditure of R14.9-million due to procurement awards being made without three quotations being obtained, and deviation from the supply chain management policy without the appropriate approval.
l Deviations from competitive bidding were approved on the basis of it being an emergency, even though there was sufficient time for a competitive bidding process.
l Six contracts were amended or extended without the appropriate approval.
l Fruitless and wasteful expenditure of more than R3m was incurred because invoices were not paid on time, and disciplinary processes were not conducted within the required 30-day period.
The report states there are forensic investigations under way into an official who was referring fleet vehicle repairs to a service provider where he had a business interest and a middle management official was accused of “unethical behaviour”.
The auditor-general says there was an investigation into payroll irregularities that involved payments made to ex-employees and disciplinary action against the manager involved was recommended but the disciplinary process and the recovery of the irregular payments was outstanding at the date of his report.
The annual report also outlines the need for a deal with the Gibela consortium to replace the country’s aging rail stock, to be completed as soon as possible. The R51-billion tender sets out to replace thousands of Metrorail trains, many of which are more than 40 years old, and unsafe.
“The most immediate challenge facing Prasa is in the nature of the transaction on its fleet renewal programme to be concluded with the Gibela Rail Transport Consortium,” chief executive Lucky Montana wrote.
The report states that Prasa did not meet its targets on rail passenger safety and that rail fatalities increased during the year.
According to the report this was “due to overcrowding on trains due to a shortage of rolling stock”.
The death rate for rail and Autopax was recorded at 0.65 deaths per million passengers, above the set target of 0.42 deaths per million. However injuries per million passengers decreased to 3.18.
But these injuries look set to cost the company millions.
According to the group’s financial statements, Prasa has listed contingent liabilities (liabilities that might occur pending the outcome of legal action) of more than R590m.
Among these are labour disputes (including one with the National Transport Movement following a mass dismissal of their members), and more than R79m for “various insurance claims for personal injuries as well as legal and other matters”.
Claims in excess of R7m are also listed for two incidents of unlawful arrest and another of assault.Insurance claims for accidents totalling R155m were settled during the year.
Last year, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela announced that she intended investigating allegations made by the National Transport Movement union of tender irregularities and mismanagement.
Prasa has consistently denied any wrongdoing relating to these claims.
Madonsela initially indicated that a preliminary report would be completed by April, but later announced a delay.
Ephraim Mphahlele, the union president, said that he had received a letter from the public protector’s office about two weeks ago indicating that Madonsela had received all the documents and information required, and would start her analysis soon.
The public protector’s office did not respond to queries e-mailed to it on Friday.
Mphahlele said that he considered the matter sub judice and could not comment on the specifics of his complaint.
He previously told media that he had compiled a dossier on irregularities at Prasa, which had then led to him leaving the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, where he claimed his life was threatened.
Prasa spokesman Moffet Mofokeng said: “As far as I am aware the investigation is still ongoing. Prasa has co-operated fully with the public protector. I don’t know what is going to happen next, it’s in the hands of the public protector.” - Sunday Independent