‘Fraud­sters get away’

Scopa has be­moaned the lack of real con­se­quences for corrupt pub­lic ser­vants

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­press.co.za

Par­lia­ment’s stand­ing com­mit­tee on pub­lic ac­counts (Scopa) has ex­pressed shock at learn­ing that the ma­jor­ity of con­victed civil ser­vants re­ceived only a slap on the wrist in the form of fines and sus­pended sen­tences de­spite de­fraud­ing the state of mil­lions of rands. This had poured scorn on the govern­ment’s claims of suc­cess­ful anti-cor­rup­tion drives in a bid to thwart the scourge, the com­mit­tee said.

These rev­e­la­tions were de­tailed in a 33-page doc­u­ment sub­mit­ted at this week’s meet­ing of Scopa where the heads of the Hawks, the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity, the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice In­ves­tiga­tive Direc­torate and the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice, among other en­ti­ties, briefed MPs on the na­tional anti-cor­rup­tion task team’s activities.

The brief­ing came two weeks af­ter Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency Jeff Radebe launched the na­tional anti-cor­rup­tion strat­egy dis­cus­sion doc­u­ment in an ef­fort to reignite pub­lic in­ter­est in govern­ment’s fight against cor­rup­tion.

Among the le­nient sen­tences men­tioned in the doc­u­ment were the cases of:

Seth­laka Kganakga, a se­nior project man­ager at the In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion ac­cused of award­ing a con­tract worth R24 mil­lion to a com­pany in which he was also a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor with­out fol­low­ing proper sup­ply chain pro­cesses. Kganakga was con­victed of cor­rup­tion and sen­tenced to three years’ im­pris­on­ment or a fine of R9 000 and a fur­ther sus­pended three years.

Sheila Gabuza, who was con­victed of fraud in­volv­ing R15 mil­lion af­ter she and oth­ers un­law­fully so­licited money from PetroSA un­der the pre­text that it was for the ben­e­fit of cer­tain schools and crèches. Gabuza got a R8 000 fine or three years’ im­pris­on­ment, half of which was sus­pended for five years.

These are two of the 42 cases that out­raged Scopa MPs who re­garded the sen­tences as not fit­ting the crimes.

Themba Godi, Scopa chair­per­son, de­scribed the sen­tences as a joke that didn’t make sense. He lashed out at the se­nior of­fi­cials in­volved, ar­gu­ing that the sen­tences in­di­cated a lack of con­se­quences for the crimes.

“Are you sat­is­fied that you have done a good job and that peo­ple have been sen­tenced in a man­ner that as­sists us to have de­ter­rence against corrupt prac­tices?” he asked. He also won­dered whether there was value for money for the state when crime-fight­ing units were given re­sources to in­ves­ti­gate, make ar­rests and en­sure con­vic­tions, only for the cul­prits to get light sen­tences.

Godi said the pub­lic be­moaned the lack of con­se­quences for pub­lic ser­vants who do wrong.

“We look at you as that in­stru­ment through which govern­ment seeks to en­sure that where there is crim­i­nal­ity, peo­ple are made to pay for it,” he added.

The ANC’s Nthabiseng Khu­nou ar­gued that rich crim­i­nals were get­ting away with light sen­tences or no pun­ish­ment at all while or­di­nary South Africans were be­ing sen­tenced to 10 years for steal­ing a loaf of bread.

“How does this Hlela per­son, who is in­volved in cor­rup­tion of R1.3 bil­lion get sen­tenced to only 10 years [which was then sus­pended for five years]. We are pro­tect­ing the rich over the poor. These are the real crim­i­nals,” she lamented.

Hamil­ton Hlela is a for­mer deputy na­tional com­mis­sioner of the SA Po­lice Ser­vice (SAPS) who was re­spon­si­ble for the sup­ply chain man­age­ment divi­sion at the SAPS na­tional head of­fice in Pre­to­ria. The Spe­cialised Com­mer­cial Crimes Court found him guilty of cor­rup­tion in­volv­ing R1.3 bil­lion and he was fined just over R76 000, which was the amount by which he ben­e­fited from corrupt activities.

The IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa pointed at cases of sus­pected syn­di­cates which he said had stolen from the pub­lic and robbed the coun­try of op­por­tu­ni­ties at ad­vanc­ing de­vel­op­ment.

“A lot of ten­ders that found them­selves in the hands of the crim­i­nals here [in the doc­u­ment] were geared to­wards eco­nomic growth and de­vel­op­ment for the coun­try and to cre­ate jobs,” he said. Di­rec­tor-gen­eral of jus­tice and con­sti­tu­tional de­vel­op­ment Vusi Madon­sela said the de­part­ment of jus­tice was only re­spon­si­ble for the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the courts and not the ad­ju­di­ca­tion of mat­ters. While the con­cerns of the MPs and the pub­lic res­onated with him, there was noth­ing he could do as the de­ci­sions of mag­is­trates and judges were not dic­tated by him­self or the min­is­ter of jus­tice, he said. Madon­sela said mea­sures such as in­tro­duc­ing min­i­mum sen­tences had not nec­es­sar­ily been the best safe­guard as judges were able to depart from those based on the ev­i­dence placed be­fore them. The task team’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­clude cor­rup­tion cases above the amount of R5 mil­lion re­ferred to it by var­i­ous govern­ment de­part­ments and agen­cies. The team re­vealed that since its es­tab­lish­ment in 2014, at least 560 govern­ment of­fi­cials had been con­victed.

TALK TO US Do you sup­port harsher sen­tences for civil ser­vants found guilty of cor­rup­tion and fraud?

VUSI MADON­SELA

THEMBA GODI

MKHULEKO HLENGWA

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