Millions spent to recover stolen R5.4m from Limpopo municipality

The Sekhukhune district municipality has spent R3m in forensic investigations to recover R5.4m
The Sekhukhune district municipality has spent R3m in forensic investigations to recover R5.4m
Image: 123RF/alexskopje

The Sekhukhune district municipality has spent almost R3m on legal fees and a forensic investigation to recover R5.4m that was fraudulently paid into a number of "wrong" bank accounts.

Last year, the municipality hired a law firm to recover the millions meant for service providers which were paid into unauthorised accounts.

A progress report presented to the mayoral committee two weeks ago states that the municipality has spent R2.8m on legal processes and R648,225 on the forensic investigation.

"The contributing factor on the costs of the legal team is due to the appointment of the counsel to apply for the recovery of the money through court process. Their investigations entailed a number of meetings with different stakeholders, including the banks, investigating officer and municipal employees as well as conducting some lifestyle audits to strengthen the case," read the report in part.

The report recommended that five employees be charged for gross misconduct, insubordination and gross negligence.

However, a manager who had been charged for neglecting her duties had entered into a guilty plea and was only served with a final written warning. She later resumed her duties and also turned a key witness in the matter.

The municipality said, in the report, that it was aware that the process was costing the municipality but it has assisted the institution to nip the core problem in the bud.

"This problem may have been happening in the municipality without anyone picking it up or investigations conducted. But this investigation has assisted the municipality to identify the source and therefore address it appropriately.

"This will be a lesson to any other officials who may have been intending to join corrupt practices," stated the report.

DA councillor Isaac Makofane said the amount spent to recover the millions was "crazy".

"It appears by the time the matter is completed, the municipality would have spent more than what was stolen. We don't even believe that those employees were charged and we suspect senior officials are involved," he said.

Makofane said the party will be approaching the public protector to investigate the disappearance of public funds. The municipality has so far recovered R4.7m and R900,000 had not been paid due to a legal dispute with one of the major banks, the report stated.

Municipal spokesperson Willy Mosoma said: "At this stage, we cannot deny nor confirm the exact money spent on recovery of the stolen money. However, we are pleased to state that R4.5m had been recovered by October 2018.

"Five officials are facing disciplinary charges and also a [criminal] case is under investigations by the Hawks in Polokwane," he said.

"We don't know as yet when the investigation will be completed in order to recover the remaining R900,000, however, we respect the labour processes and the criminal case unfolding."

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