Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has written to the office of the Auditor General to request the chapter 9 state institution to conduct a forensic investigation into alleged financial and tender irregularities at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa.)

The Minister has commissioned the Auditor General’s office to look into alleged violations of the Public Finance Management Act and other related statutes regarding contracts, engagement of service providers and payments to service providers including but not limited to issues that have received wide media coverage recently.

The agency is said to have incurred “irregular expenditure” of more than R700m. Prasa’s chief executive‚ Lucky Montana‚ was recently dismissed. He subsequently laid fraud and criminal charges against a number of Prasa executives.

“Given the revelations of the recent past concerning the Passenger Rail Agency, I am of the singular view that an independent institution such as the office of the Auditor General, is better placed and empowered to look into financial affairs at Prasa with a view to identify areas of weakness and recommend corrective measures,” said the Minister.

“I have been in consultation with the Board and senior management of PRASA in the past weeks. I have asked several questions, the responses of which largely inform my decision.”

She said the Auditor General’s office had previously produced reports regarding financial management at Prasa.

“I have thus requested the Auditor General’s office to look into those past reports and immediately attend to identified areas of concern. As the executive authority I take primary responsibility for the affairs of state owned entities that are administratively and politically accountable to the Ministry of Transport,” says Minister Peters.

The Board of Directors of Prasa, management, staff and other relevant stakeholders are expected to cooperate with and provide support to the Auditor General’s office in its execution of the brief.

Minister Peters encouraged the leadership of Prasa to remain focused on ensuring that trains continue to run daily and the efficient delivery of the new rolling stock programme.