The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has heard how Parliament’s Transport Committee failed its oversight duties on state-owned Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said he was shocked and frustrated to hear that Members of Parliament did nothing about corruption at the entity while the company’s fruitless and wasteful expenditure bill continued to mount.

Furthermore, the committee failed to interrogate enablers of State Capture at Prasa. Zondo was hearing evidence from the committee’s former chair Dikeledi Magadzi on Monday.

Magadzi said it was difficult to carry out their oversight obligations as a result of the high turn-over of executives at Prasa. She said during her tenure there were three ministers, four boards, and many executives which led to instability at Prasa.

They also faced many challenges, including getting documents on the modernisation plans for Prasa. She says the company also did not have any annual plans or strategic planning vision for the years 2014-to 2019.

The instability hampered the portfolio committee’s efforts to follow up on allegations of the trains that were bought by Prasa that were not fit for purpose.

“Whenever we wanted information we wanted to do oversight Mr. Molefe would remind us that we are overstepping our mark in respect to the oversight that we want to do and we are interfering with his fiduciary duties and these are some of the things that we were experiencing with him. We had an oversight meeting and we wanted to go see the tall trains.”

Parliament Committee former chair Dikeledi Magadzi says Prasa’s lack of planning affected oversight: 

Magadzi admitted her committee failed in taking any action and bringing the Gupta’s and their associates to Parliament for questioning for alleged corrupt activities.

Between 2015 and 2016 the Gupta’s featured extensively in the media regarding their alleged corrupt activities in State Owned Entities and their influence on the government.

Magadzi says the transport committee was concerned about this and discussed engaging the Guptas but failed to do so.

She said the committee decided not to do anything. “Chairperson, I don’t necessarily have an answer as to why we did not call the Gupta brothers but let me indicate that our discussions in the portfolio committee led us to a situation where we did not call the Gupta brothers and I don’t want to lie and say this is what we did, probably in hindsight I would say I think the committee should have done something.”

AG recommendations 

The Transport Committee also failed to follow up on recommendations it made regarding fixing challenges at Prasa.

Magadzi said they raised various red flags including findings by the Auditor General but failed to execute their own recommendations. She says they were doing oversight on 12 entities plus other departments and this was overwhelming.

Magadzi also admitted it failed to do thorough oversight because Parliament does not have systems in place to help them execute their authority on SOEs.

“Many times as the portfolio committee we were raising lack of consequence management at Prasa and we were also raising the question of repeat findings by the Auditor General which were never being raised by Prasa as such and hence you see the irregular expenditure was growing.”

The committee wanted state institutions such as the Auditor General, National Treasury, Hawks, and South African Police Services to investigate alleged corruption and the irregular procurement of trains at Prasa. Magadzi says her committee made recommendation’s that state institutions investigate these issues and those held accountable be arrested, but this also did not happen.

“And it was out of the recommendation’s as the portfolio committee and hence when he wrote the letter to the speaker and I also had an opportunity from the speaker indicating that letter, but the recommendation’s that we made to say we believe the state apparatus should be able to make a state investigation which the chairperson of the board at Prasa took up and subsequently was not happy about how issues were unfolding.”