Sunday, October 10, 2010

R80m stolen from Guardian's Fund: Radebe

R80m stolen from Guardian's Fund: Radebe
Oct 10, 2010 2:24 PM | By Sapa


An estimated R80 million has been defrauded and stolen from the Guardian's Fund by corrupt justice officials and syndicates, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said.


Photograph by: Bruce Gorton
Radebe said that since February 2010 there had been an investigation that involved the Hawks, the Special Investigating Unit and the National Prosecuting Authority into allegations that corrupt officials in collusion with syndicates had defrauded the Guardian's Fund of about R80 million.

The Guardian's Fund falls under the administration of the Master of the High Court and was created to hold and administer funds paid to the Master on behalf of various people such as minors, people who are incapable of managing their own affairs, unborn heirs and missing or absent people.

"Several corrupt officials give out particulars of the legitimate beneficiaries.

"The syndicates are able to make use of fraudulently obtained identity documents to apply for and claim as a beneficiary.

"Bank accounts are opened using these false identity documents and corrupt officials pay such monies into their accounts," he said.

One syndicate member had claimed 15 times for the same beneficiary.

He said "the tide was turning" against the corrupt officials and he hoped to see them behind bars soon.

Radebe said that in the 2009/10 financial year there had been 26 fraud case, 25 cases of theft and 70 cases of negligence in the department.

He said that of the 121 cases of financial misconduct, 60 cases were dismissed while there were 60 convictions and one case was still pending.

He said 21 staff had been dismissed, 19 had been given final warnings and 20 had received verbal and written warnings.

The total value of the 60 cases where convictions were recorded was R30 million. One case alone involved R29 million. So far between R300,000 and R500,000 had been recovered.

He said that since he had taken office, the department had improved the areas where the Auditor General had previously expressed grave concerns.

"The department managed to effectively reduce the areas of qualification from five to two by successfully resolving in the 2009/10 financial year the previous negative findings on asset management, employee benefits and lease commitments."

In the past year the department had expanded its facilities in a bid to ensure all South Africans had access to justice.

He said three new courts had been built and a further three were under construction. Fifteen 15 branch courts had been converted into full service courts with their own areas of jurisdiction.

He said the Small Claims Courts had been expanded and there were now 212 operating.

The department hoped to have a Small Claims court operating in each of the country's 384 magisterial districts.

He said that the department's Seven Point Plan had resulted in higher conviction rates with conviction rates of 90.5 percent being recorded in district courts, 74 percent conviction rates in Regional Courts and 87.7 percent conviction rates in High Courts.

He did not reveal the conviction rates for specific crimes such as murder.

He said that the case backlog had been reduced and that the department had recruited 80 new public prosecutors in a bid to reduce the case load

The department had managed to reduce the number of children awaiting trial by 50 percent during the past financial year.

He said presently 71 percent of juvenile cases were resolved within three months.

Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel confirmed that former police commissioner Jackie Selebi's appeal process would not be paid by the state.

The trial, in which he was convicted of corruption, cost R17.4 million which was footed by the state.

This did not preclude Selebi from applying for legal aid although he would have to undergo a means test.

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