Axed Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) CEO Lucky Montana is confident that Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s investigation into 37 allegations against him will prove he is not corrupt.
But Madonsela’s office has again postponed the release of her report, which City Press understands deals with submissions made to her office after the Prasa boss was suspended.
City Press understands that suspended executives made submissions to Madonsela regarding “suspect transactions” and “questionable” suspensions of employees by Montana, including:
. Irregularly awarding R23.8 billion worth of tenders to a group of companies that had advised Prasa on how to structure the contract, which the companies were later awarded;
. Authorising an R8 million settlement, considered to be “fruitless and wasteful” expenditure, with an executive whose contract was terminated “without any reason” being given;
. Insisting on the irregular suspension of eight executives who were then not disciplined; and
. Irregularly awarding an R82 million extension on a tender initially worth R10 million to train Prasa employees, and then dismissing an executive who had questioned the extension.
Speaking a day after he had laid fraud charges against Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe and two executives, Montana dismissed all the allegations against him and said the Prasa board was responsible for authorising any tenders over R100 million after a “rigorous” adjudication process that did not involve him.
“As group chief executive, you can only authorise tenders of between R25 million and R100 million. Anything above that goes to the board, with its own processes, for approval,” he said.
Montana said other allegations against him included that he had hired his cousin, Stephen Ngobeni, paid an unauthorised R80 million to Fifa to become the 2010 World Cup transport sponsor, and caused a R2 billion loss to Prasa on various transactions.
“Ngobeni joined Metrorail in 1995, 11 years before I joined Prasa. We never paid Fifa a cent, and there was no such loss to Prasa of R2 billion. I gave the Public Protector all the proof because it’s easy to disprove these things,” he said.
Montana claimed the real reason the board had terminated his contract two weeks ago was because Molefe “manipulated a coterie of board members” after Montana refused to succumb to his demands to approve an “irregular” payment of R58 million to a company that sponsored a golf day for Molefe’s foundation in April.
“I’m very confident in Madonsela’s investigation. I’m happy this thing is coming to an end. We should ask Madonsela what Prasa gave her [as proof] and what those who made the allegations gave her. They couldn’t support a single one of those allegations and I’ve given her files. But I’m going to rely on her sense of fairness,” he said.
“The Public Protector might say there’s an act of Parliament I didn’t fully comply with, but I’m not worried about those,” Montana said.
Madonsela was expected to release her investigative report into Prasa tomorrow, but postponed the release, citing extensive submissions to her investigation to which she had yet to apply her mind.
Montana, who said he would only return to Prasa if the board was removed, said his decision to lay criminal charges against his former colleagues was not motivated by revenge, but by a continuation of the measures he had taken against a questionable fencing tender, which he alleges was inflated by nearly R100 million.
He said in the two weeks he had been out of the organisation, the board had reinstated executives he suspended, including one who had authorised an additional amount of R58 million to the fencing company without any approval.
In 2012, the company against which he laid charges was awarded a R209 million tender to fence Prasa depots, an award he had “strongly supported”. But in June last year, the company demanded another R97 million, which had been approved by another executive without authorisation, Montana said.
In May, Montana said he discovered that the executive had allegedly increased the value of the contract “irregularly”.
He claims that board members, in particular Molefe, pressured him to pay the company, but he refused and instead suspended the executive, cancelled the contract and ordered that Prasa recoup any losses it had made.
“I believe the chairperson who said it’s no longer in the interest of Prasa for me to continue with my contract is angry that I defied the directors who said I should pay these guys,” Montana said.
“I believe this to be one of the major issues that informed the chairperson and a coterie of his own clique in the board to go for the kill. I’m going to leave it to the police when they investigate.”
He challenged Molefe to publish his foundation’s financial statements to disprove his allegations. “I’ve fought many battles and I don’t want to underestimate what the long-term impacts of this matter will be. But I’m not afraid. I think I’m built for this kind of thing and those who dream of delivering my head cannot, certainly not in this lifetime. That will be done by God,” he said.
Montana also said he hoped his replacement would make the right decisions to save the organisation. “It is a difficult job, a highly stressful job. But I enjoyed it because I knew I gave it my best shot every day. I owed my first loyalty to the company. I’m a political animal, but I would never manipulate decisions of the company to suit politics or party political interests. I believe I’ve acted as a professional. In the end, I know I will win [this battle]. The truth will triumph.”
Prasa spokesperson Sipho Sithole said Molefe had never discussed the fencing tender payments with Montana, and that the suspended official who returned to work should never have been suspended in the first place