Zondo on Prasa looting: How can there be no visible action to recover R2.6bn?

Zondo on Prasa looting: How can there be no visible action to recover R2.6bn?

Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo was on Tuesday at pains to understand how no one was held accountable for rampant looting at the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) during the Zuma years.

The state capture commission chair was lamenting the situation as former Prasa board chairperson Popo Molefe wrapped up his testimony about alleged corruption, fraud and maladministration his board had identified during his term.

Zondo said it was puzzling that authorities from law enforcement, the executive - then and now - as well as parliament had not pushed for the recovery of lost taxpayer money from those who unduly benefited.

What made the Prasa looting difficult to stomach, Zondo added, was that it was not small figures that had been siphoned but billions of rand.

This money, he added, would have come in handy at a time like this, when substantial amounts of cash are needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and its impact.

Zondo’s frustration came after Molefe led evidence that showed how cronies of former Prasa chief executive Lucky Montana helped themselves at the agency.

This included contracts that were irregularly awarded to companies whose owners were linked to Montana and politically connected businessman Roy Moodley.

The wrongs that took place at Prasa led to a complete collapse of governance, leading to the agency having no permanent chief executive nor board for five years.

Zondo found this painful and difficult to be easily explained away.

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“You know, two-point-something billion [rand] - you are talking lots of taxpayers' money here. Despite all of this being well known to the portfolio committee on transport, to members of parliament, to the executive at that time and now, why is there no clear action that is known in the public domain being pursued to get this money back?” said Zondo, who admitted to being “frustrated” by this.

“This is taxpayers' money, so that is part of the worry. I mean, why do you have five years without an institution having a CEO? Why do you have interim boards?

“These questions make one think there could be something big behind all of this. How can there be no visible action to recover R2.6bn lost by an organ of state? 

“We know the people on the ground have lots of needs ... but all these things are just left hanging.”

It appeared that nobody in authority cared to recover the stolen money, said Zondo, if their non-action so far is anything to go by.

“It is as if everybody just wants that [the stolen money] to be forgotten, so the commission must look into that - as to who has not been doing what they are supposed to be doing.”