Prasa’s Richard Walker leading Parliament Transport Committee to see the burnt train and vandalised shops at the Cape Town Station. Phando Jikelo African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has been accused of covering up a case against the Western Cape Metrorail regional manager after it dropped charges against him and promoted him.

Prasa has also been accused of flouting good governance principles by not holding senior management implicated in serious breaches by the auditor-general accountable for their actions.

South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) provincial secretary Tembela Dakuse said it had also laid charges against Richard Walker after Prasa failed to investigate the charges and instead dropped them.

“There were 37 charges that were laid against him based on the auditor-general’s 2016/17 findings. But top Prasa leaders at the time who initiated the investigation were removed from their positions and posted elsewhere,” Dakuse said.

The charges against Walker issued by group chief executive Cromet Molapo in February included corruption, contravention of the Public Finance Management Act and fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Walker is also accused of contravening supply chain management procedures in appointing certain security companies as service providers between April and July 2016 without the approval of Molapo.

As a result of the action the appointments of Sechaba Protection Services, Comwezi Security, Chippa Investment Holdings and Chuma Security were non-compliant. A failure to conduct an evaluation three months into the contract resulted in Metrorail incurring irregular expenditure of R6.7 million.

Walker was suspended in February pending the outcome of the investigation but the charges against him were dropped at the instruction of the board.

However, a month later, the board instructed Molepo to lift the suspension and ensure that Walker resumed his duties on March 1.

The Weekend Argus has seen correspondence in which the then-Western Cape regional manager, Mthuthuzeli Swartz, sought clarity on the instruction.

“Please direct your correspondence on the clarities you seeking (sic) from me to the AGCEO who was instructed by the board to ensure that Richard is back at work on Monday,” the company secretary, Lindikhaya Zide wrote in one of the emails to Swartz.

Swartz was later moved from the position of regional manager to acting chief of Prasa and was later suspended on several charges.

He is now fighting to clear his name, maintaining that he was a whistle-blower who had merely acted to implement the findings of the auditor-general in the case of Walker and stopping corruption in the sourcing of food for Shosholoza Meyl.

Swartz refused to be drawn into the matter.

But Dakuse questioned Prasa’s willingness to root out alleged corruption in the Western Cape, saying the inaction had largely contributed to the problems facing the operations of Metrorail.

She said huge amounts of money were being wasted on security services and yet arson attacks were continuing unabated and those who had security-related skills within Metrorail were not being used.

“You ask yourself why is it that everything is being outsourced when we could improve what we already have? To date no one has been prosecuted for the cable thefts and arson attacks yet Prasa has its own investigative unit,” Dakuse added.

She added Prasa owed it to the Cape Town commuters to investigate the charges and take decisive action instead of “covering them up”.

Metrorail operates almost on a third of train sets it should have to carry the millions of passengers.

The number of passengers is believed to have dropped to 500 000, due to inefficiencies, delays, cancellations and overcrowding.

Many coaches are stationed at Salt River either waiting to be fixed or collected.

Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani didn’t comment on the claims. and referred questions related to Walker to Metrorail as “he handles such queries himself”.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said Walker had at all times acted in the best interest of the commuters in the Western Cape and had no objection in co-operating with any investigation.

Weekend Argus