Fraud­sters kill off ghost spouses

Over 70 DUT em­ploy­ees sus­pended over in­sur­ance

Weekend Witness - - News - KERUSHUN PIL­LAY and NOKUTHULA NTULI

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]­

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