Masters' Offices closed across the country for SIU corruption probe

03 February 2020 - 20:04
By Kgaugelo Masweneng
Allegations of corruption at Masters’ Offices throughout the country have led to a temporary closure.
Image: 123RF/SEBNEM RAGIBOGLU Allegations of corruption at Masters’ Offices throughout the country have led to a temporary closure.

The justice department will shut down all Masters' Offices across the country as part of an investigation into allegations of maladministration, corruption and fraud.

This was announced by justice minister Ronald Lamola on Monday, after a search and seizure operation conducted by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) at the Master’s Office in Johannesburg.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had authorised the SIU probe.

“Following this proclamation, the Special Investigating Unit conducted a search and seizure operation today in the Masters’ Offices across the country,” Lamola told the media.

“This investigation was necessitated by several allegations of maladministration and corruption — and the Mpumalanga case, wherein it is alleged that an official in the Master’s amassed R1.7m through fraudulent activities — which further highlighted the need for an investigation of this nature.” 

The closure was effective from Monday. The offices will not be accessible until Wednesday February 5.

“We are fully aware that the Master’s Office plays a critical role in our communities. It is an office that works for the most vulnerable in our communities — it works for orphans, minor children and the widowed,” said Lamola.

Its duties include the supervision of the administration of companies and close corporations in liquidation; the safeguarding of all documentary material in respect of estates, insolvencies and liquidations; the processing of enquiries by executors, attorneys, beneficiaries and other interested parties; and the appointment of executors, trustees, curators and liquidators.

Matters that are urgent can be escalated to the head office via the local magistrate's office, added Lamola.

According to the department, the investigation will look into maladministration in relation to the estates of deceased and insolvent persons, as well as the protection and administration of the funds of minors, contractually incapacitated and undetermined and absent heirs, which have been paid into the Guardian's Fund.