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Transport Dept insists it did not ask Prasa to shut down probe

Prasa is conducting an independent investigation into irregularities and contracts at the parastatal.

The Chairman of the Prasa Board, Popo Molefe, on the Public Protector report on 3 September 2015. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Transport Ministry says it wants the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to submit a detailed report on the progress it's made in investigating irregularities at the rail agency, insisting that there was no instruction to shut down the probe.

Minister Dipou Peters sent a letter to Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe, raising concerns about the probe, which she says appears to be without a clear scope and has cost about R80 million, which hasn't been budgeted for.

In the letter, Peters asks Molefe to close off the investigation process.

Molefe says he has responded and doesn't agree.

"This investigation has got to do with the observance of the rule of law, the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act."

But the ministry's Ishmael Mnisi says they are only asking for a report at this stage.

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

Last year, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released a damning report instructing Prasa and National Treasury to probe all contracts at the parastatal valued at over R10 million.

The DA's Shadow Minister of Transport Manny De Freitas says it's concerning that the minister now wants to halt the investigation.

"It looks like a cover-up. Why would she want this thing to be stopped when the [auditor] general and Public Protector requested certain things? Why is she requesting for this to stop? This is a great concern and so I will take this further through Parliamentary processes."

Former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana was found to have irregularly awarded tenders, appointed companies and suspended employees.

The findings of a report released last year by the Auditor General revealed improper expenditure of over R700 million at the parastatal.

The Public Protector had raised serious issues about financial mismanagement within Prasa.

Some of the allegations, involving the awarding of tenders and appointing certain service providers improperly, were substantiated last year.

Montana was axed last year after his relationship with the board turned sour.