A large portion of the R5.4 million stolen by unscrupulous municipal officials at the Sekhukhune district municipality in Limpopo three months ago has been recovered.
The recovery was done “thanks to the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), which worked tirelessly with the banks to freeze the money from being withdrawn,” said Stanley Ramaila, Sekhukhune district municipality’s executive mayor and ANC regional chairperson yesterday.
Ramaila said the stolen money was meant for service delivery.
In August, the municipality suspended four of its senior officials from the information and technology (IT) and finance divisions after they were linked to the disappearance of the money in July this year. A month later, two more officials were also suspended.
A criminal case was opened with the Hawks and Saps in Groblersdal to immediately investigate the fraud.
According to Ramaila, the money was illegally transferred from the municipal accounts to foreign bank accounts, hotels in Limpopo and beyond the province’s borders.
Ramaila said, upon investigations, it was discovered that the municipality paid an amount of R4 503 122 19 on July 5, and R948 891 on July 9 into wrong accounts.
All the transactions were made when Ramaila was on an economic investment tour in China with Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha and while the articulate mayor was on leave.
“When I came back, I was baffled to find my municipality in tatters.
“With the help of my council I immediately appointed a firm of attorneys to instruct all financial institutions to be on the lookout and freeze the affected accounts.”
Authorities set to work, and amounts of R3 042 91 from Absa, R845 344 from Nedbank and R900 000 from Peermont was later paid back.
“The total amount paid back to the municipality is R4 788 306,” said Ramaila.
He added: “I must admit that this fraud shook us. My fear was if the money was not recovered that could hamper the municipality from performing well in the books of the auditor-general at the end of the financial year.
“We want to say to our employees and possible thugs who may still be remaining there that Sekhukhune and fraud are water and oil.
“In Sekhukhune we do not romance crime and tolerate corruption.
“We are a transparent municipality with the sole aim of delivering state-of-the-art services to our people with precision and distinction.
“We will always work with the police and all law enforcement agencies to make sure that those who commit crime in our institution are locked up behind bars for a long time,” he said.
The Sekhukhune district municipality is among a few municipalities in Limpopo which did not invest in the VBS Mutual Bank.