PARLIAMENT - A corruption investigation into the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has now cost the company R148 million.
This was revealed by the agency, which appeared before Parliament’s Transport Committee on Tuesday afternoon, to present its annual plan.
Initially hesitant to answer questions related to the progress of forensic investigations at Prasa, Corporate Services manager Tiro Holele said it would be inappropriate since the investigations were initiated by the board.
“It is not our place, it is the board that commissioned the investigations – we report to the board and it is simply not our place.”
But MPs insisted that the executive indicate how much Prasa has spent to date.
It was revealed in March that Prasa had incurred R127 million in irregular expenditure for a corruption investigation by Werksmans Attorneys.
But the acting chief financial officer Yvonne Page revealed today that at least R20 million more had already been paid to the firm.
She said Werksmans has been given until July to complete the investigation.
Prasa she added, had budgeted 14 million rand in the coming year for unforeseen legal fees.
The rail agency says the aim of its turnaround strategy that it will be implementing over the next year is to slash costs by R1.1 billion in the next financial year.
Group chief strategy officer Sipho Sithole told the transport portfolio committee on Tuesday that the company was doing good work, but this was being undone by constant attacks on its infrastructure.
Sithole says the company hopes to have 800 more coaches in service this year to increase the number to 3,500.
Prasa says it will be dedicating this year to getting the agency’s finances back on track.
This involves cutting staff to reduce the salary bill by R579 million.
It also wants to cut security costs by R184 million.
The agency says new trains will not contribute significantly to revenue this year because ticket prices will remain unchanged.
But Sithole says Prasa needs help protecting its assets.
“These are societal problems that are bigger than Prasa. The level of lawlessness that we’re experiencing as an organisation ... we’re not the only one.”
On the sidelines, disgruntled former Prasa workers pleaded with MPs to intervene in their battle to be reinstated.
(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)