Four allegations PRASA must answer - Manny de Freitas

DA MP says Agency reportedly failed to hedge the exchange rate on the contract for the new trains

Prasa’s derailment must be stopped

14 July 2015

The people of South Africa require and deserve an efficient passenger train network that connects them to job opportunities, their families and to economic hubs.

The numerous allegations that have recently emerged against the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) are extremely worrying. Given the billions of taxpayers’ money involved, it is crucial that Parliament have full oversight of this issue and that answers are provided by Prasa and the Minister.

Prasa cannot continue to lurch from crisis to crisis without being held to account.

I will today write to the Transport Committee Chairperson, Dikeledi Magadzi, to request that she summon the Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters, and Prasa to account for all the allegations that have emerged so that South African’s are given the answers they deserve.

The following allegations must be answered:

1. Prasa imported 13 brand new diesel trains, to the value of R600 million, that are too tall for the local rail lines on long distance routes for which they are intended. This was despite being warned by senior railways engineers that the new trains are too tall for local use and could damage the overhead electrical cables on the country's rail lines.

2. Mr Daniel Mtimkulu, Head of Engineering Services Prasa, claims to have obtained an engineering degree from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) before studying in Germany to get his doctorate. Yet Wits has not been able to find any record of Mr Mtimkulu studying at the University.

3. Prasa failed to hedge the exchange rate on the contract for the new trains, effectively meaning that the original cost of R3.5 billion of the trains increased to nearly R5 billion due to the Rand depreciating against the Euro, and could continue to increase as exchange rates change.

4. Prasa will apparently carry out ‘maintenance’ to some lines in the Western Cape in what appears to be an attempt to disguise the raising of the height of overhead cables so that the new trains will fit.

The DA has already written to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport to request that she summon Prasa and Mr Mtimkulu to present his qualifications and answer the allegations against him.

The DA welcomes the intention to upgrade our rail network and trains as millions of South Africans rely on trains to get them to and from work every day. 

It is however vital that these upgrades, which will cost billions, are performed responsibly, effectively and that public funds are not wasted. 

The DA will continue to fight for the answers that every South African rightly deserves.

Statement issued by Manny de Freitas MP, DA Shadow Minister of Transport July 14 2015