Clerks dip fingers into court coffers
COURT clerks have defrauded the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to the tune of R80-million.
The money was meant for child maintenance and spousal support and other third-party funds managed by the courts.
The acting CFO of the Third Party Funds division within the department, Johan Johnson, yesterday told the portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development in Parliament that the money was being lost to fraud and corruption, dishonoured cheques, wrongful payments and failure by beneficiaries to claim what is due to them.
But investigations were under way to try and trace where the funds had gone.
"We cannot say to what extent, but [the shortfalls are] because of theft or shortages or misappropriation of funds or because the court clerks start putting money in their own pockets.
"What is due to people must be equal to the money that is available at the courts. At some of these courts there are shortages," he said.
Johnson said cursory findings included money that had "accidentally" been paid to the wrong recipients, cheques paid to the courts that had bounced, corruption and theft by officials.
He said of the unaudited accumulative shortfall of R79.9-million dishonoured cheques accounted for R12.5-million and maintenance debtors - people who had not paid their former partner or spouse - for R3.3-million.
Johnson said they had alarmingly witnessed a R63.4-million shortfall in the period between transferring money from the trust to beneficiaries.
This money had still not been accounted for.
In the 2011 financial year more than R225-million paid to courts as bail and fines had been transferred to the National Revenue Fund.
Johnson said in some cases, the money a plaintiff had won in compensation was also not paid out by the courts, despite the money having been received from the defendant.
He said another scenario was when money had been received by the courts but was not properly classified in terms of where it had come from or where is was meant to go.