“We have no doubt the tide is turning and Prasa is on track to position itself as the backbone of our public transport system.“
CAPE TOWN – A lot of work still needed to be done to address security, theft, vandalism of assets and infrastructure and criminality that undermined provision of commuter rail, said Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on Tuesday.
He was briefing the standing committee on public accounts.
Mbalula said he had no doubt that the newly-appointed Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) board would rise to the challenge and tackle the challenges with urgency.
He said they were on the path to build an agency that has capacity and leadership.
“We are on track with infrastructure upgrades and modernisation in the central line and the Mabopane corridors.”
The minister said they have concluded a shareholder compact with the new board and its priorities for the remainder of the financial year included implementation of security and asset protection, among other things.
He was, however, disappointed that Prasa’s audit outcome for 2019/20 was a disclaimer with findings.
The auditor-general had noted instability at board, leadership and key positions as well as no permanent group CEO, among other things.
Mbalula said there has been significant progress in areas they had prioritised subsequent to dissolution of the interim board.
He said there was also significant progress in the filling of critical vacancies at senior management level.
“We have no doubt the tide is turning and Prasa is on track to position itself as the backbone of our public transport system,” Mbalula said.
Board chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane said there were a number of challenges they have committed to deal with.
“We are focusing immediately with stabilising Prasa in terms of key positions and policy aspect,” Ramatlakane said.
Acting chief executive Thandeka Mabija said although Prasa obtained a disclaimer in 2019/20, there was a decrease in audit findings from 173 to 120.
“There is work under way to address these issues,” she said, adding that an audit finding plan was in place.
Mabija detailed their plan to address the audit findings that were picked up over the years, including the asset register.
She noted that the new board has established five board committees and that there was significant progress in filling key positions.
Mabija told MPs that there was a serious need for Prasa to revise its asset management approach and look at resources to strengthen the security function.
She noted that the audit had found that irregular expenditure had decreased from R3 billion to R1.3bn.
There was a minimal decrease in fruitless and wasteful expenditure from R51m to R48m.
“We have long outstanding debt that results in Prasa carrying interest because debts are not paid within 30 days.”
Mabija said the entity was instituting consequence management with employees being hauled before disciplinary hearings and some dismissed for violating procurement processes during the current financial year.
Responding to questions from MPs, Ramatlakane said the new board has asked to be provided with records of decisions taken by the administrator Bonginkosi Mpondo.
“We directed that we need consolidation of the decisions. Once the record is consolidated we will apply our mind to every decision,” he said.
Ramatlakane said they asked to be furnished with the missing record of the boards and a record of expenditure on Werksmans attorneys, among other things.
Board member Smanga Sethene said it extended to monies spent by former chief executive Lucky Montana and others.
“We are still waiting for that information. We requested that information last Saturday during the induction of the board,” he said.
“It is very crucial that we should leave no stone unturned and recover taxpayers’ money that has been allegedly squandered.”
Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said Prasa would remain on the radar of Parliament in light of its challenges and that it was important that it was functional and effective.
Hlengwa said they wanted to have an inquiry into Prasa, and terms of reference have been drafted.