Prasa wants Transport Department to pay back the money for Collins Letsoalo

The Transport Department will be held financially liable for the 350% salary hike disgraced Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa acting group CEO Collins Letsoalo secured himself.

Agency board chairman Popo Molefe said they would write to the Department demanding that the money paid to Letsoalo‚ over and above the R1.3-million salary which he should have received‚ be returned to Prasa immediately.

Letsoala’s contract was terminated with immediate effect on Monday.

He had claimed that the Prasa board had approved his R5.9-million salary — the salary of a permanently employed Prasa CEO.

Letsoalo‚ who has returned to his post as the Department’s chief financial officer‚ was seconded to Prasa by the Department last year with an annual package of R1.3-million plus a 12% “acting allowance”. His brief was to “sort out” the floundering agency.

 Molefe said: “The monies paid to the Department by Prasa must be returned immediately.

 “The monies which we seek are what were paid over and above what Letsoalo should have been paid. His salary was R1.3-million when he came to us in October. We will seek the difference from that time.”

Molefe said they would hand over a report on the matter to the Transport Minister Dipuo Peters on Wednesday.

The demand to pay back the money is not the Department’s only woes in the Letsoalo saga.

The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union is now demanding that the Department answer why‚ if Letsoalo could receive a 350% salary increase‚ Prasa will not budge on the current 3% salary increase offer for their members.

“If he [Letsoala] has lied about this [allegations that the Prasa board approved Letsoalo’s salary increase]‚ we want to know how on earth someone can have a 350% salary increase‚ yet workers are not offered more than a 3% increase‚” said union spokesman‚ Zanele Sabelo.

She said they would approach the Department soon to seek clarity on the Letsoalo issue and other concerning irregularities regarding Prasa.

Molefe said the entire matter had raised the alarm over serious governance issues.

“This has exposed that our internal controls are either not strong enough or that there are people who are deliberately not applying them.

“We will institute internal processes and if willfulness was found in signing off on Letsoalo’s renumeration package‚ there will be consequences.”

He questioned why the Department had not queried Letsoalo’s pay hike with Prasa’s board.

“Part of our internal investigations will look at how the Department works‚ especially in such ways that they do not check — once they receive an information note saying that a salary has been increased — with the agency to confirm the alleged increase.

“If they had‚ we would have caught this thing earlier. We would have known about it from October.”

 He said Prasa would further strengthen internal control systems to shutdown any weaknesses.

Molefe said their investigations would also look at any other possible misrepresentations made by Letsoalo‚ which may have severe implications for the agency.

“I don’t want to speculate on what there are‚ but if there are any‚ they will be dealt with.”

He declined to comment on why none of the five shortlisted CEO candidates‚ identified last year‚ had never been appointed.

On Sunday‚ Prasa readvertised the position for group CEO.

“What I can say is the delay was not from our side. Rather it was from the processes which affect government. We were ready to make the appointment from April 2016.

“We encourage those who want to apply to apply.”

 On Letsoalo’s increase‚ Molefe said any Prasa executive salary increase required board approval‚ “which in this case did not happen“.

“He was never the CEO. He was acting and as an acting CEO he was not entitled to that salary. He knew that. The minister and the Department told him as much and its clear in the letters which I signed with him.

“What he did was a misrepresentation. To say I am not disappointed would be a lie. I thought we had a dynamic young man who was actioned‚ who I thought we could work with‚ whose ideas for turnaround had started to crystalise.”

Sabela said the union was concerned about what was‚ and was not‚ the truth.

“We are not sure who is lying. We will question the minister over this. We want to know what’s happened to the CEO shortlist from last year‚ why the post has not been permanently filled and why the position has been readvertised.”