Popo Molefe
Popo Molefe

The High Court in Pretoria has dismissed the bid by the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) to overturn a R4bn contract awarded to Siyangena Technologies.

The decision was a blow to the Prasa board, which successfully overturned its month-long dismissal earlier in 2017. The board argued it needed to return to the agency to conclude legal battles it had initiated, including this one against Siyangena.

On Wednesday, the court ruled that Prasa failed to make its application to challenge the contract within the required 180 days. The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act requires judicial proceedings to be launched "without unreasonable delay" and within 180 days.

The merits of whether Siyangena had won a "rigged tender" for security systems were not tested in court.

Board chairman Popo Molefe said it was still considering its legal options. The ruling was not expected to affect a challenge brought by the Prasa board against Swifambo Rail Leasing for trains that were found to be unsuitable for SA’s rail network, he said.

These two major contracts were challenged by the board after former public protector Thuli Madonsela released findings in August 2015 which revealed that Prasa had improperly extended tenders in contravention of its supply chain management policy, the Public Finance Management Act and the Constitution.

The public protector’s report found that the R2bn contract awarded in 2012 to Siyangena to install high-tech access gates and other security-related infrastructure was irregular and constituted maladministration.

Prasa maintains the bid was rigged to allow Siyangena to win, but launched its challenge only in February 2016, almost a year after the public protector made her findings.

In April, six of the seven Prasa board members who had challenged their dismissal by then transport minister Dipuo Peters won their reinstatement.

Molefe said new Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi "has not responded to any attempts to meet with me; I believe there may be attempts to isolate the board".

Siyangena and the Department of Transport did not immediately comment.

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