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By Pearl Rantsekeng
The mere mention of the words "fraud and corruption" evokes different emotions from most South Africans. Throw in the City of Johannesburg in the mix and you might as well have poured petrol into the fire! Yet, there is one man who has no fear of setting his foot into that fire. And, it is none other than former provincial Hawks Head Major General Shadrack Sibiya. The ?General?, as Sibiya is fondly referred to, was appointed to the position of the city’s head of internal investigations by the then Johannesburg Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba four years ago.
Mashaba said Sibiya was the right man to lead the fight against corruption in the city as head of the Group Forensics Investigating Services (GFIS). After all, General Sibiya came with the highest accolades as the former chief special investigator at the then Scorpions ? the former Directorate of Special Operations, an independent multidisciplinary agency that investigated and prosecuted organised crime and corruption. It was a unit of the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa and has since been replaced by the Hawks. As GFIS head Sibiya?s responsibility involves tackling the fight against crime within the city of Johannesburg ? a no mean task. Even Sibiya himself concedes hence, he adds amidst laughter, he has made sure that he surrounds himself with just over 80 officials of the highest calibre equipped with the necessary skill and experience needed to tackle such complex and sometimes dangerous cases.
Before establishing the unit, says Sibiya, the city relied on GRASS ? the Group Risk And Assurances Unit ? which consisted of risk, compliance, internal audit and internal investigations though done on a smaller scale. ?For internal investigations the city used to rely on external service providers spending between R500 000 to R5 million per investigation. ?Since we came in we have been able to conduct investigations independently and go as far as putting together reports that are presented to oversite committees up to council level,? explains Sibiya.
GFIS is an independent department and reports functionally to the COJ Audit Committee and administratively to the city manager. Though the unit has no prosecution powers it has a great working relationship with other law enforcement agencies such as, the South African Police Service, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Asset Forfeiture Unit and Home Affairs.
Sibiya says the rationale behind GFIS?s establishment stems from the need to curb the rampant corruption and maladministration that is threatening to bring the city as well as the country to its knees. ?The city is losing millions of rands on a daily basis from corrupt employees, shady contractors that are not vetted and career criminals some of whom are involved in the illegal hijacking of buildings as well as cable theft,? he says.
The city?s crime-busting unit is currently investigating a number of corruption related cases within several agencies under the city of Johannesburg. These include City Power, where GFIS is investigating cases amounting to R2,5 billion, Johanessburg Road Agency [R50 005 4000], Johannesburg Property Company [R1 billion], the Johannesburg Market [R780 million], City Parks [R12 million] and Pikitup [R5 million]. But not all is gloom as the unit has had many success stories with the recent conviction of four people for the theft of buildings in town and 36 of the buildings handed back to their original owners. The unit recently discovered that 1 500 employees within the city fraudulently received the special COVID-19 social relief grant of R350 as well as other grants which include the pension grant, the military grant for veterans as well as the child grant.
Asked what keeps him awake at night, the general says: ?People who are still able to commit a crime legally and officially. For an example the issue of tenders and how people are able to manipulate the system by ensuring that they have their own people chosen to sit in the bid specification and evaluation committees. ?The other thing is the knowledge that the city is bleeding on a continuous basis losing millions every day from all the respective departments from people who are finding ways to bypass the system.?
Sibiya?s message to the citizens of the COJ is that the days of corrupt officials in the municipality are numbered. He has urged the citizens not to become victims of fraud by scrupulous officials. ?We have put in place a number of initiatives to educate the public about fraud and corruption as well as channels to use from whistle blowers, to a Hotline and places to go to if one wants to report a crime,? he adds.