Fraudsters kill off ghost spouses
Over 70 DUT employees suspended over insurance
STAFF at the Durban University of Technology hatched a plan to get hitched to ghost spouses whom they then claimed to have died so they could collect insurance.
More than 70 staff, mainly from the human resources section, were suspended in connection with the fraud scheme.
Sources said the employee insurance scheme paid out a year’s salary to the spouse of an employee who died. The policy also paid out an employee if a spouse who did not work for DUT died.
DUT did not respond to detailed questions, but said it “will allow the instituted processes to take its course, and will take decisive action against those implicated.
“The university will not comment further on this matter as this might jeopardise the instituted processes,” the deputy vice chancellor, Dr Isaac Machi, said.
It is not clear if the insurance scheme has been suspended, or when action against the fraudsters would be concluded.
This is the second major act of alleged corruption The Witness has discovered at DUT this year, after it was reported earlier that the university suspended five senior managers after a forensic investigation revealed the university was billed nearly R7 million for security during a student protest.
In the latest case of alleged activities, insiders said members of the university’s HR department were allegedly creating “ghost spouses” for single employees.
They would then submit information to the insurer to claim the dead spouse’s insurance payout.
The problem of corruption at the university is so bad that the vice chancellor, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, has informed staff that he needs to be protected by bodyguards.
In a year-end letter to staff dated December 10, Mthembu said DUT was “getting to grips with irregularities and unbridled corruption”.
“It’s really sad that after my 30 years of being in the higher education sector and because of the corrupt environment, for the first time I have to have bodyguards,” he wrote.
“I feel so foreign ... given the shocking practices I have come across at DUT,” he said, before encouraging staff to come forward and report “unethical, irregular or corrupt” activity.
DUT SRC president, Sesiyanda Godlimpi, said he had heard rumours about this.
“We support the decision to suspend staff when [DUT finds] out about corruption,” he said.
Speaking generally, Godlimpi said there were many cases of corruption at the university, and said the SRC had spoken to Mthembu about it.
“We tell him about acts of corruption, but often we have no proof. But the VC [Mthembu] is a brave man, and he will listen and on his side do his own investigation.”
He said he was aware that Mthembu had a security detail. “He is getting threats because of these investigations,” Godlimpi said, adding, “Even though he has only been here for one year, we are seeing a transformation. He is doing a good job.” • [email protected]ness.co.za