warder cheats inmates of R1m

Mhlaba Memela and Canaan Mdletshe

Mhlaba Memela and Canaan Mdletshe

A senior Serfontein Prison official, who is alleged to have defrauded the Correctional Services department of a whopping R1,1million belonging to prisoners, is still in hospital.

This emerged yesterday during a press conference at Pietermaritzburg New Prison.

When the investigation started last week, the suspected warder was admitted to hospital. As a result, the prison management are unable to take action against him.

KwaZulu- Natal Correctional Services spokesman Nkosinathi Nhleko said that the audit report for the last financial year revealed that there was a misappropriation of inmates' funds to the tune of R1,1million.

"At this stage we are still sitting with the investigation and until such time as it is concluded, we are in the dark as to how this happened.

"A warder who was handling the offenders' account was hospitalised during the investigation.

"The money we have stated might be less than the actual amount in question as our investigation continues," he said.

The money is deposited by the inmates' relatives when they pay visits to the prison.

The department's policy does not allow a relative to hand over the money to the inmates directly and all correctional centres have an internal account where the offenders' money is kept.

The offenders have a right to ask for the money when they want to buy anything.

Nhleko said as soon as the investigation is concluded, the necessary steps would be taken against the suspected official.

He also said that an official at the Kokstad correctional service centre had been suspended.

This follows the disappearance of R650000 from the inmates' medical account. Nhleko said the money was a grant prisons received from the department allocated to inmates when they have to consult an outside doctor or hospital.

The warder linked with corruption and fraud involving the offenders' medical account, Refilwe Khapathe, had appeared in a local magistrate's court. She is out on R10000 bail.

Nhleko said these allegations levelled at his department's officials were "quite disturbing".

"Fraud and corruption are not acceptable. We will complete our investigations in all cases and ensure people face the law," he said.

Kokstad area commissioner James Baxter said: "The inmate medical account is a state fund and is being used for offenders when they are referred to outside doctors."