Mbalula says decisions by ex-Prasa administrator are valid
Cape Town – Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says the decisions taken by the former administrator at Passenger Rail of South Africa (Prasa) Bonginkosi Mpondo remained valid despite his appointment being set aside by a court in August.
“The court did not pronounce on any other matter other than the unlawful appointment of Mr Mpondo. All matters and decisions taken by the administrator remain valid unless set aside by a court of law,” Mbalula said.
He made the statement when he was quizzed by the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday on whether Mpondo would pay back his remuneration and about the status of his decisions after the court found his appointment was unlawful.
Mbalula said there were a plethora of similar examples of the setting aside appointments such as that of former NPA head Shaun Abrahams, who was not made to pay back his salary.
He insisted that “the judge declared the appointment unlawful, not the consequential acts by Mr Mpondo whilst at Prasa”.
But board chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane said the new board had asked the executives to provide records of decisions taken by Mpondo.
This was in light of the grey area Mpondo’s decisions posed in the wake of the court ruling, he said.
“We directed that we need consolidation of the decisions. Once the record is consolidated, we will then have to as the board apply our mind to every decision and of course regularise those decisions where there is a need,” Ramatlakane said.
Meanwhile, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) said it estimated to recover R7 billion in losses incurred by Prasa.
In August 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the corruption-busting unit to investigate allegations at Prasa and recover losses that may have been recovered.
Although Mothibi told MPs that they would appreciate giving Scopa a comprehensive presentation, he said to date significant progress had been made.
“The total value of these matters under investigation has been quantified to R7 billion,” he said.
"There is potential criminal referral of four persons – two dismissed officials, one a company and the other a director,” Mothibi said.
He told MPs the Prasa officials who were dismissed were not off the hook.
“It does not mean we will not follow you in criminal charges and even recovery in terms of civil litigation. There are potential recoveries in some areas we have identified.”
Mothibi also said they anticipated to complete their investigation, which was based on the proclamation, by the end of March 2021.
Mothibi also said there was a secondment agreement reached between Prasa and the SIU that was signed in September to investigate material irregularities picked up by the Auditor-General.
He said progress in the matter had led to consequence management with eight to nine officials hauled before disciplinary hearings and two dismissed.
Mothibi said the investigation under the secondment agreement would be completed in February 2021.
Prasa is among 89 entities identified by the Office of Auditor-General for the probing of material irregularities picked up during the audit of finances.
Prasa acting CEO Thandeka Mabija said the passenger rail entity was instituting disciplinary action against officials who were on the wrong side of the law.
Mabija said four senior officials in the protection services department were dismissed for procurement-related irregularities in the awarding of security contracts.
An assistant manager and senior employee in the engineering services were dismissed on counts of gross negligence and gross dishonesty in respect of procurement-related irregularities.
She told the MPs that Prasa was undertaking further investigations and disciplinary processes against officials in various departments for procurement-related irregularities.
“The SIU is investigating 28 matters in Prasa and secondment of resources to assist with material irregularities. The Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations is investigating 21 case dockets emanating from the Public Protector's Derailed Report,” she said.
Mabija also said 18 other dockets were opened for contravention of the Public Finance Management Act by the Hawks.