NATIONAL NEWS - In what has raised questions about internal checks and balances at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa), it has emerged a law firm on the agency’s panel of attorneys has not submitted annual tax returns for three years.
The Citizen can reveal Ranamane Mokalane Incorporated was de-registered by the Commissioner of Companies and Intellectual Property Commission last Wednesday and the last time the firm filed its annual return was in 2016.
This means that the firm is no longer able to hold a trust account, which is a requirement for practice. In March, then transport minister Blade Nzimande revealed in a parliamentary reply the law firm’s director Rasetlhodi Grayne Sekhasimbe was also facing criminal charges for fraud.
However, Prasa has remained mum on whether the decision had been taken on its relationship with the firm, with independent sources claiming the firm was still on Prasa’s panel of attorneys. The firm has a somewhat dubious past, with its initial founder and director, Paul Ranamane, bust in October 2016 for theft of trust monies and struck off the roll of attorneys.
This after the High Court in Pretoria found he stole R5 million, which was paid into the firm’s trust account by the Gauteng provincial public works department, roads and transport in January 2010.
Sekhasimbe, who was a partner, has since taken over the firm which the minister revealed in his reply had been paid R10.1 million by March though he also has his own firm, Rasetlhodi Sekhasimbe and Associates.
Ranamane Mokalane Attorneys represented Prasa in its legal tussle over R3.6 million which a service provider, Rail and Road Assessing, claimed was outstanding for services rendered. According to information, the firm had been in contact with this company as recently as a week ago.
The firm has also reportedly been among service providers appointed from 2016 on “emergency basis” by the Airports Company South Africa and benefited to the tune of R11.5 million.
Sekhasimbe said he was out of town and unable to comment.
The Legal Practice Council was unaware the firm had been deregistered but said this would have no implications in Sekhasimbe practising as an attorney because he was properly registered with the council.