Friday 1 March 2024

Joburg's crime-busting unit investigate over R24 billion worth of dodgy deals

November 15 ? 21, was International Fraud Awareness Week! The aim of this event was to encourage business leaders and employees to proactively take steps to minimise the impact of fraud by promoting anti-fraud awareness and education. The City of Johannesburg [COJ] is one such organisation. Last week it took to the streets of Cosmo City, outside Randburg, where it embarked on an educational campaign. The city?s Group Forensic and Investigation Services head General Shadrack Sibiya says the visit to Cosmo City was aimed at educating as well as empowering the community of Cosmo City to know more about fraud and corruption as well as share with them the steps they can take to help combat fraud and corruption. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)?s Report to the Nations, companies lose an estimated 5% of their revenue annually due to fraud.

Sibiya tells Inside Metros that the COJ is bleeding millions of rands on a daily basis due to fraud and corruption. Since its inception in 2016, the unit has investigated over 4 000 cases totalling just over R24 billion. Last week alone, the city was dealing with the issue of 1 500 of its own officials found to have fraudulently benefitted from the Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant. GFIS found that 419 of the officials received the R350 relief grant while about 1129 illegally claimed the grants meant for military veterans, pension and child grants. Addressing the media, Johannesburg Executive Mayor Geoff Makhubo said the city was committed to instilling the values of accountability as well as transparency across the institution at all levels. ?From the onset, we made a commitment to deal with fraud and corruption across the city and to ensure there are consequences for wrong-doing,? said Makhubo.

Makhubo said GFIS would share the outcome of the investigations with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) for further action. He added that other investigations were still ongoing and findings would be shared with the council and public. Some of the cases investigated by GFIS are already in court including the controversial Setheo Engineering matter which was due back in court on Wednesday.

Brighton Chifamba, 49, is accused of theft, money laundering, corruption and fraud. This comes after the accused and his company, Setheo Engineering, clinched a R126 million contract with the City of Johannesburg in 2015 to build a substation in Eldorado Park worth R126 million. Setheo Engineering was allegedly wrongfully appointed to build the substation and according to COJ no work has been done to date. Setheo is said to have secured the multi million rand contract through a fraudulent bank guarantee which led COJ to believe it had the balance sheet to handle the project.

Sibiya said his unit had investigated the matter and uncovered that, in February 2017, almost R66 million was paid to the service provider without any physical work done. Also in court is the matter of Deon Pillay. Pillay, the sole director of Esizwe Technology, is accused of not delivering 570 desktops after he was paid about R8 million by COJ. The stealing of grants, fraudulent awarding of tenders, looting of coffers and illegal dumping of accounts are just a tip of an iceberg to the challenges faced by the City. Sibiya mentions the Illegal dumping of accounts as being rife ? this is when officials go to the prosecutor within internal affairs, like at a licensing department, and have a client?s ticket paid. ?They take the payment yet the money never reaches the city?s coffers. Instead, the two connive and illegally dump the client?s tickets onto a deceased person?s account and then share the spoils,? explains Sibiya.

He said when Covid started the city was ordering gloves, masks and sanitisers from a supplier who turned out to have been giving the City sub-standard sanitiser. ?A client complained about the quality of the sanitiser, which could have been juice for all we know? we investigated and we went to the company and they admitted to have given us sub-standard sanitisers. ?In another case, the city suffered a cyber-attack and we involved the state security agency to assist as we rely on SAPS, SIU and Hawks sometimes,? he explains.

In spite of all these challenges, General Sibiya sees the light at the end of the tunnel. ?People are now wiser and we have made sure that we also play our part by being out there, printing fliers, launching our Hotline and places to go to for whistle blowers. The citizens now know where to go to report crime, when someone is asking for money they know where to go,? says Sibiya.
The City?s Hotline number is: 0800 002 587


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