Hawks 'surprised' by Prasa's accusations of 'failure to investigate'

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It could take up three years for rail agency Prasa's fortunes to improve.

JOHANNESBURG - Prasa Board chair Popo Molefe believes the blatant evidence of corruption at the rail agency may be far greater than that uncovered in the arms deal investigations.

But he claims the Hawks are not acting on that evidence to protect “thieves and looters”.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa has taken the unit to court to force it to finalise its two-year-long probe into irregular expenditure, totalling over R14-billion.

READ: Prasa board set to be dissolved

Molefe says Prasa's own investigations revealed how evidence relating to multi-billion rand tenders was destroyed shortly before he and his board took over.

The Hawks, meanwhile, have refuted Prasa's claims that the special investigating unit has failed to act on the allegations.

Contracts, violations

Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi was the chairperson the Prasa board when his brother’s company was reportedly awarded an R150-million shipping and logistics contract.

It was from the company paid R2,6-billion for locomotives that are allegedly too tall for South African rail lines.

Buthelezi and his brother say they did nothing wrong.

But that deal is not the only one on which Sfiso Buthelezi faces questions.

Treasury’s Chief Procurement Officer has recommended that he face prosecution for alleged repeated violations of the Public Finance Management Act, in a report which found that only 13 of the 216 Prasa contracts investigated by Treasury were above board.

Buthelezi’s replacement on the Prasa Board, Popo Molefe, says the agency’s own private investigations revealed that mountains of crucial tender documentation was destroyed.

“The records of PRASA are in shambles," Molefe said, "but during that period, when we came in, they were deliberately destroyed as we showed, that we had to retrieve about 1,4billion documents through forensic investigation."

"There was an IT specialist who was there, who worked with the former group CEO. His business was to wipe out all information…

"They did not follow process; there are no documents. They didn’t take minutes, or if they took minutes, the minutes reflect that they deliberately manipulated things to favour particular tenderers,” he added.

Prasa has taken the Hawks to court to force them to investigate the alleged tender fraud, corruption and racketeering put before them.

The agency has spent R140-million funding a private investigation, after the Hawks told them they didn’t have the capacity to do such investigation.

“We would not waste our time investigating a case where there is nothing wrong," Molefe told eNCA.

"I can’t see how in the case, the formidable case that we have put before them, that they could say that they don’t have a case. I don’t know how they could say that.”

One of the deals it wants investigated is the Shivambo Rail Leasing locomotive tender, from which the deputy finance minister’s brother benefitted directly.

The Hawks deny that they haven't investigated Prasa's cases, and say they will oppose the application to force them to finalise the probe.

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