The Portfolio Committee on Transport will enhance oversight of the portfolio, with a special eye on the Passenger Rail Authority of South Africa (Prasa) in an attempt to improve audit results.

The Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) briefed the committee on Tuesday and noted a slight improvement of the audit in the year under review. AGSA Business Executive Mr Polani Sokombela told the committee that outstanding audits may still influence the 8% improvement in the portfolio, realised mainly at the Drivers Licence Card Authority and the Road Traffic Management Corporation.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority and Prasa were singled out as the worst performing entities, with Prasa only achieving 17.5% of targets and receiving a disclaimer for the second year in a row. Prasa’s challenges relate to disrepair of its assets, record-keeping, repeat areas of concern, the Swifambo contract and signalling problems.

Committee Chairperson Mr Mosebenzi Zwane said it is important for the committee to assist in getting Prasa on the correct path. “The committee appreciates this report and acknowledges the improvement as noted by the AG. Recommendations to the committee are most welcomed,” Mr Zwane said. Although issues at Prasa are historical, the committee will ensure that Prasa does not fail.

Mr Sokombela said Prasa’s management is complacent and has failed to address the root causes of its problems. “The issues span governance, financial management and the limitation of scope. Irregular expenditure is very high in the portfolio and Prasa alone accounts for about 27% of irregular expenditure in all government entities.

“This is unacceptable. Billions of rands are being pumped into this entity to make sure the working class is able to go to work. Concrete action needs to be taken on Prasa,” he continued. “Instability of management at Prasa is exacerbating these challenges. This has resulted in a culture of impunity.” He requested the committee to enhance oversight.

Mr Solly Segoa, the leader of the Auditor-General’s delegation, said: “In the absence of action to the findings, the Auditor-General will get to a point where it issues Prasa with a certificate of debt.” He indicated that the Special Investigations Unit is investigating.

Other matters of concern highlighted by the AGSA include liquidity challenges at South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) due to unsuccessful e-tolls, and Covid-19-related risks at entities such as the Airports Company of South Africa and the Road Accident Fund.

Committee members acknowledged Prasa’s challenges and Mr Zwane agreed with other committee members that enhanced oversight of the entity is required. Matters at Sanral must also be resolved before they impact on performance. “The committee needs to ensure that Sanral is not put in a situation that it fails, especially arising out of an issue that is of not of their making. We will take this up with the department,” said Mr Zwane.

Sibongile Maputi
10 November 2020