THE Mpumalanga public works department nearly lost more than R500000 meant for service providers when fraudsters tampered with the providers' banking details.
But thanks to the alertness of First National Bank which reversed a payment of R557000 just in time, this could be stopped.
This emerged yesterday when the department appeared before the Select Committee on Public Accounts in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.
The committee heard that an amount of R347961,35, meant for Mbombela municipality, was processed and paid into the wrong bank account after the municipality's banking details were altered.
It was also discovered that the banking details of another service provider, Vusubheki Management Services, were fraudulently changed and that an amount of R210987,72 was deposited into the wrong FNB account.
Frans Tshetlho, an assistant manager in the public works department who is employed in the bookkeeping section, said he received a call from an FNB consultant at its Johannesburg head office telling him that she received an enquiry from their Nelspruit branch about a payment that was processed by the department.
Tshetlho said he then requested the consultant to delay any withdrawals from the account and give him the opportunity to do a proper check.
He said on checking he established that the payment was made to Mbombela and realised that the banking details of the municipality had been altered.
An investigation was then conducted that showed that Mbombela's banking details and that of another supplier, Vusibheki Management Services, were changed.
Two payments of R137868,69 and R73119,03 were processed in the name of Vusibheki.
Sowetan has the names of eight officials who are said to have authorised these transactions.
They all denied any involvement in the process that cost the Mpumalanga government a total of R169000.
Criminal charges have been laid with police.