Peters denies blocking Prasa probe


Bilateral meeting between Ms. Dipuo Peters Minister for Energy of South Africa and IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano during the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety. IAEA, Vienna, Austria, 23 June 2011.

JOHANNESBURG – Transport Minister Dipuo Peters on Thursday denied that she had stopped a probe into possible corruption involving contracts worth billions of rand at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

“It is categorically denied that the Minister at any stage instructed any member of the Prasa Board and/or administration to stop any investigation of any nature,” said a statement issued by the department of transport.

She was responding to claims by the Democratic Alliance a day earlier suggesting that she wrote a letter asking Prasa to stop the investigation into irregularities and contracts awarded during former CEO Lucky Montana’s tenure.

“We have noted with deep concern media reports that placed in the public discourse inaccurate statements alleging that the Minister of Transport, Mme Dipuo Peters has instructed the Board of Prasa to stop ongoing investigations into contracts worth billions of rand awarded by Prasa,” said the transport department.

“We wish to place on record that the allegations are both malicious and a deliberate distortion of the truth. Minister Peters as a shareholder in Prasa has the responsibility to ensure that Prasa delivers on its core mandate and that such delivery is underpinned by prudent and good governance principles.”

The department said publicised matters pertaining to Prasa were giving an impression the administration and the Board were in shambles and disarray.

“The gloomy picture painted about the entity of the transport family warranted urgent and decisive interventions. To that extent, the Minister engaged the Board of Prasa and were in agreement that priority be placed at improving good governance and bring about stability at the entity.”

The department said the minister’s appreciation of these matters led to the secondment of the acting CEO Mr Collins Letsoalo with the sole purpose of improving internal controls, stabilising the administration and inculcating prudent financial management in the entity.

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Institutionalising prudent financial management warranted identification of wastages and implementing findings of various investigations not limited to the Public Protector, the Auditor General and Werkmans Attorneys.

“It would be irresponsible and lack of appreciation for cost containment measures and realising value for money if the situation of unlimited and open-ended investigations were to be allowed to continue unabated, without proper controls and management.”

The department said every public institution is underpinned by the principles of accountability, transparency and prudent financial management.

“It can never be correct that when the Minister implores those vested with the responsibility to account and invoke the principles of good governance, such a clarion call be deliberately misconstrued as an instruction to thwart investigations.

The department said the minister, however, implored that investigations be speedily concluded as opposed to unlimited and ever ongoing investigations costing the entity millions of rand without any tangible report tabled.

READ: SCOPA to watch PRASA&39;s irregular expenditure

“It is an undeniable fact that some of the investigations have been protracted for a lengthy period of time without any indication of such investigations coming to a conclusion,” said the department.

“It is mischievous to allege or even think that the Minister can stand in the way of good governance. As a matter of fact, she is a proponent of an administration free of corruption and some of the investigations currently underway were undertaken at her request with her unconditional and unwavering support to rid the entity of maladministration and corruption.

“In fact it is the Minister who instructed Prasa in writing to conduct the investigation into matters identified in the Public Protector’s report.

The department said the minister together with the Board Chairperson and the Chief Procurement Officer of the National Treasury made a conscious decision on a consolidated approach where Prasa, Office of the Auditor General and the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer will run concurrent but independent investigations.

“It would be irresponsible of the Minister not to monitor the process and request reports on the outcome of the investigation when huge amounts of monies are being spent and the process is continuing unabated. It is also important to ensure that there are no scope overruns and duplication of efforts amongst the three investigations.”

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