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The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) is a “broken entity”, Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula said after ditching the war room established to pull the agency out of the abyss, and as a newly appointed administrator lays bare the extent of the rot. “Prasa has suffered blows for many years of mismanagement and deteriorating cooperate governance. Today it is [a] broken organisation … struggling to provide an efficient commuter and passenger rail service.” Speaking in Johannesburg yesterday, the minister said numerous boards had failed to save Prasa. He said instead of a board, he had appointed an administrator,...
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) is a “broken entity”, Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula said after ditching the war room established to pull the agency out of the abyss, and as a newly appointed administrator lays bare the extent of the rot.

“Prasa has suffered blows for many years of mismanagement and deteriorating cooperate governance. Today it is [a] broken organisation … struggling to provide an efficient commuter and passenger rail service.”

Speaking in Johannesburg yesterday, the minister said numerous boards had failed to save Prasa.

He said instead of a board, he had appointed an administrator, Bongisizwe Mpondo, who will report to him every month.

Mpondo has established so far that Prasa has been ravaged by systemic erosion of value and is characterised by disorder, with “countless changes” at chief executive officer and board level since 2015, culminating in an interim board last year.

Mpondo said these changes were, by design, a key enabler for instability and that Prasa was a fertile ground for crooks.

“Questionable decisions have been taken by leadership, with disastrous consequences.

“One telling example is that towards the end of last year, the interim board cancelled the security contracts without a contingency plan in place.”

This had led to parts of coaches being stripped by vandals and live cables stolen.

There was also no proper record-keeping, with board records, minutes and resolutions nonexistent and some investigation files missing.

There was no adequate backup system, with key company information stored in staff computers and operating systems not fully deployed and, in some cases, nonexistent.

Mpondo said irregular expenditure was close to R30 billion in 2018-19, irregular contracts were at R1.57 billion and about 52 current and former employees had been implicated in the looting spree.

Vandals do R50m damage at Braamfontein depot

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa) largest passenger train depot, in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, has been ravaged by vandals who have caused millions of rands of damage to trains.

In December, they torched 10 trains, causing R50 million damage to coaches awaiting refurbishment.

But it was the lack of security at the depot that shocked Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula during his visit to the site yesterday.

Manager Dumisani Qanti said the depot was under siege from vandals living in a squatter camp along the perimeter fence, but Prasa was paralysed by the lack of security, the porous perimeter fence and lack of lighting.

A Prasa security manager, who cannot be named, said this was the situation across the country and it had been worsened since security contracts were cancelled last year.

siphom@citizen.co.za

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