Popo Molefe's term as the chairman of Prasa's board has officially ended. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/Independent Media

Johannesburg - Popo Molefe, the outgoing chairperson of Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) board which completed its term on Monday, took a parting shot at new Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi for failing to attend requested meetings aimed at tackling corruption and governance anomalies.

"The outgoing board of Prasa has successfully completed its tenure, during which significant strides were made, in accordance with the recommendations of the erstwhile Public Protector in her report entitled 'Derailed', to address long-standing corruption and governance issues at Prasa," outgoing chairperson Popo Molefe said.

"To this end, the board instituted and completed significant investigations at Prasa and, consequently, embarked on litigation to unwind unlawful and corrupt transactions." 

The board's term ended at the close of business on Monday, 31 July 2017.

In 2015 then public protector, Thuli Madonsela, found that Prasa failed to comply with its own supply-chain policy. She found widespread maladministration and impropriety in the awarding of contracts worth R2 billion.

Molefe said the board's efforts were vindicated most recently by the court judgment in favour of Prasa, which set aside an unlawful contract amounting to approximately R2.6 billion.  

"The Board has also taken steps to compel the law enforcement agencies, including the National Prosecuting Authority and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, to act against the wrongdoers," he said.

"The Board's successes have been achieved despite the interference and undermining of its activities by the minister of transport. The board overcame the erstwhile minister of transport's irrational and unlawful attempt to remove it in March 2017, successfully instituting urgent proceedings to obtain an order from the high court reinstating the board, whose members have been unlawfully removed by the erstwhile minister. 

"The current minister of transport has, however, continued to attempt to thwart the operations of Prasa and prejudice its attempts to address 'Derailed'." 

Transport Minister Maswanganyi’s predecessor, Dipuo Peters, fired board members in March, just two weeks after it removed acting chief executive Collins Letsoalo for giving himself a 350 percent pay hike.

The board members were, however, reinstated in April after the high court in Pretoria ruled Peters’ decision was unlawful as she did not give the board members a chance to defend themselves.

Molefe said that Maswanganyi has "refused" to meet with the Board; that despite repeated requests,  the transport minister failed to appoint additional members to the Board in terms of his statutory obligations;.

The outgoing chair said rather than dealing with the critical substantive issues and supporting the work of the board, the "minister notified the board of his intention to remove the board in June 2017". Molefe also asserted that Maswanganyi had "undermined the authority" of the board.

"As such, the departing board does not believe that the minister has Prasa's best interests, and the interests of the public, at heart. The board has thus sent detailed written submissions to the President, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Public Protector in order to highlight its concerns and express its lack of confidence in the independence and ability of the minister to fulfill his statutory mandate," Molefe said.

"The board hopes that its concerns will be noted and that urgent steps taken to address these concerns. Failure to do so may mean that Prasa's mandate and critical work will be imperiled, and the board's function in fighting corruption and maladministration fatally compromised."

Maswanganyi's office could not be immediately reached for comment.