JANE FURSE – Scammers recently siphoned from Sekhukhune District Municipality R12 million which was deposited into alleged fraudulent bank accounts.
According to the district municipality the money was meant to be its contribution, in terms of the Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, to the Compensation Fund, from which workers who may get injured or contract diseases while at work could claim.
The municipality informed that on 24 April 2018, it received a letter, purportedly from the Compensation Fund, reminding them of the R12 million owed to the fund.
SDM said the letter, which was marked as ‘final warning’ and had banking details, which payment had to be made into, gave them 21 days to settle the amount or the fund would resort to the court.
Stan Ramaila, SDM Executive Mayor, said the municipality as a result made payments in twelve installments of about R1 million a month.
Ramaila said it was only after payment of the last installment , twelve months later, that an official from the Compensation Fund informally told a municipal official during a workshop they attended that the municipality still owed the fund R12 million and the debt had increased to R16 million as a result of cumulative interests.
According to the municipality upon a subsequent formal enquiry, the Compensation Fund denied ever receiving the payments that they had been making.
It further said it was worth noting that at no stage since it first received the “warning letter”, in April 2018, did the Compensation Fund or commissioner formally or otherwise remind of the outstanding debt.
Executive Mayor Ramaila stated that their preliminary investigations revealed that the bank details appearing on the correspondence did not belong to the fund, there was a prima facie evidence of negligence on the part of their officials and that had reasonable care been taken, the municipality would not have lost the money, that was a scam that possibly involved more than one person and/or an institution.
The district municipality confirmed that a criminal case was opened with the South African Police Services.
“We want to ensure the residents of Sekhukhune District Municipality that we will stop at nothing to root out corruption,” said Ramaila during a special council seating at Makhuduthamaga Local Municipality Council chamber recently when the matter was deliberated upon.