heads to roll in graft probe

Alfred Moselakgomo

Alfred Moselakgomo

Mpumalanga education MEC Mmathulare Coleman has suspended six officials for allegedly defrauding the government of millions of rands.

The suspensions emanate from fraudulent activities by several officials in the department who colluded with transport service providers, including disregard for provisions of service level agreements.

Because of these fraudulent activities, the costs of transporting pupils in the province skyrocketed from R10million in 2001 to more than R143million last year.

Though the department refused to divulge names, Sowetan can reveal that deputy director Willem Kotze, chief director Thomas Maputle, director in the supply chain Sipho Thwala, former head of scholar transport Moses Chauke and two other junior clerks, were suspended last week because of serious allegations of corruption.

"We have summoned all the affected officials to internal disciplinary hearings," said Coleman.

"The commercial crimes unit has impounded all crucial documents to safeguard evidence and they will keep us informed of progress," she said.

In 2006, the department ordered a forensic investigation to determine why scholar transport costs in the province had escalated.

An amount of R66000 was budgeted for the investigations, but the bill rocketed to R1,2million.

The forensic report confirmed the suspicions of members of the executive council that there was maladministration regarding the management of scholar transport.

The investigation covered the period 2001 to 2006.

The report indicated that the investigation looked at work that was carried out, including the review and investigation of contracts and tenders to service providers for scholar transport.

The probe also included verifying payments made to service providers by the education department.

The preliminary findings showed that all the service providers transporting scholars on behalf of the department were either performing these duties on extension letters or had no authority to continue with the contract.