South Africa

Prasa: Court finds tender was too tall an order for our rail network

By Pauli Van Wyk 3 July 2017

“My hands are clean,” said Deputy Minister of Finance Sfiso Buthelezi when quizzed about the Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa) of South Africa’s controversial R2,6-billion too-tall-locomotive-tender. “Nah ah,” said the court. This contract is corrupt. BY PAULI VAN WYK.

The awarding of a R2,6-billion tender to Swifambo – that ended up providing locomotives that were too tall for the South African rail network – is corrupt, the High Court in Johannesburg has found.

Under new administration the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) asked the court to review and set aside the tender, alleging a myriad of fraudulent deals were closed under its former leadership.

The matter pitted current Prasa chair Popo Molefe against the ANC, and in particular his predecessor current Deputy Minister of Finance Sfiso Buthelezi. Buthelezi presided over Prasa during the time when several tenders, found to be corrupt, had been awarded.

In an affidavit, Molefe also alleged that an R80-million spin-off from the Swifambo contract found its way to ANC coffers. The ANC has previously denied the allegation.

“My hands are clean,” Buthelezi said during his first official press conference when quizzed about the Swifambo tender he presided over.

Buthelezi defended the awarding of the contract by challenging Molefe’s allegation that the Swifambo locomotives were too tall for the local rail network, saying: “I don’t know where this comes from…the locomotives travelled from Cape Town to Braamfontein (Johannesburg), you make up your own mind if they are too tall”.

On Monday the court sided with Molefe, saying “harm will be done to the administration of justice if this award is not set aside from the onset. Corruption will triumph if this court does not set aside the tender. The only just remedy is to set (aside) the contract with retrospective effect”.

Buthelezi is already in hot water after an investigation by National Treasury found that he should be criminally charged for turning a blind eye to unbridled mismanagement and alleged corruption during his tenure as Prasa board chair.

The investigation found that only 13 contracts out of 216 awarded between 2012 and 2015 were above board. The 216 contracts have a combined value of about R19-billion.

But Prasa is locked in another legal battle – this time to pressure the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to do its work. The Hawks and NPA opposed the case.

Prasa asked the court to force the Hawks to investigate a long list of alleged fraud and corruption a forensic team unearthed after former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela ordered an in-depth investigation.

Prasa’s battle with the Hawks have yet to be heard by a court. DM

Photo: Newly appointed Deputy Minister of Finance, Sifiso Buthelezi sworn in by Justice Sisi Khampepe on March 31, 2017 (Photos GCIS)

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