Collins Letsoalo‚ the disgraced acting CEO of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA‚ is going nowhere.
Letsoalo told The Times there was “no need (for him) to consider moving” and added that only Transport Minister Dipou Peters‚ who seconded him to the position‚ could remove him.
Letsoalo was sent packing by the board on Monday night after our sister newspaper Sunday Times revealed at the weekend that he had orchestrated a 350% pay hike for himself. He demanded a chauffeur‚ among other perks‚ in the R5.9-million package.
Letsoalo claims he did nothing wrong. “I am still the acting chief executive officer; there is nothing wrong that I have done‚ I have not appointed myself and would never give myself an increase‚” he said.
“I am seconded by the shareholder and appointed by the board chairperson as acting group CEO and to date no one has informed me of this removal‚” he said.
“There is no need for me to even consider moving‚ I have not been told of this removal. My secondment can only be withdrawn by the minister and no one else‚” he said.
The chairman of the agency’s board‚ Popo Molefe‚ told sister newspaper The Times that he had received a defiant email from Letsoalo but had chosen to ignore it.
“He tried to say that the only person who could remove him from his acting position is the minister [Dipuo Peters]‚ as she had seconded him to the position‚ but what Mr Letsoalo fails to understand is that it is a tri-alliance agreement. If one party does not agree to the agreement‚ then it does not happen. It’s that simple and there’s nothing to debate about it.”
The Department of Transport will be held financially liable for Letsoalo’s massive salary increase.
Molefe said the board would demand that the department pay the difference between Letsoalo’s agreed salary of R1.3-million and the R5.9-million he awarded himself.
Letsoalo‚ then the Transport 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.
“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‚ whom I thought we could work with‚ whose ideas for a turnaround had started to crystallise.”
Molefe said he would give a report on the affair to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters today.
The Prasa demand that it pay back the money is not the department’s only woe. The SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union is demanding answers from the department.
“We want to know how on earth someone can get a 350% salary hike‚ yet workers are not offered more than a 3% increase‚” said union spokesman Zanele Sabelo.
She said the union would ask the department for clarity on the Letsoalo issue and other irregularities at the agency.
Molefe said the saga had raised the alarm about governance.
“This has exposed that our internal controls are either not strong enough or that there are people who are deliberately not applying them.
“If wilfulness is found in the signing-off on Letsoalo’s remuneration package‚ there will be consequences.”
He asked why the Transport Department had not queried Letsoalo’s pay hike with the board.
“If they had‚ we would have caught this earlier. We would have known about it from October.”
Molefe said the board’s investigations would also look for other misrepresentations by Letsoalo.
He would not comment on why none of the five shortlisted CEO candidates identified last year had been appointed.
“We are not sure who is lying‚” said Satawu spokesman Sabelo. “We will question the minister about 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.”