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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Senior Eastern Cape Department of Education officials in court for R59 million IT fraud

NYAKALLO TEFU| 

Five officials of the Eastern Cape Department of Education have been granted R5000 bail each after they appeared in court for allegedly committing IT fraud.

The five suspects are: former chief education specialist Noxolo Gwarube, former superintendent general Mthunywa Ngonzo, former education deputy director-general Monwabisi Tywakadi, deputy director for IT Tyrone Fourie, and Hermanus Smith, 47, who is the director of Siegesmund Trust appeared in the East London Magistrates court in connection with IT fraud amounting to R59 million.

They were arrested on Monday by members of the Hawks East London Serious Corruption Investigation Team. The complete list of charges include corruption, fraud, attempted fraud, theft and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). 

The charges against them came after the department centralised the supply of supplementary resource material.

The centralisation of the supplementary resource material meant that schools no longer procured these services themselves, but through the Department.  

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said Gwarube, Ngonzo and Fourie decided that the unit at the Eastern Cape education department would procure these services during the 2014-2015 financial year despite the fact that the specific unit within the department had not budgeted for such procurement. 

“Any shift of funds within the budget of the Eastern Cape education department would have required a report to seek approval from National Treasury,” said NPA spokesperson, Sipho Ngwema. 

Ngwema said the accused, in truth and in fact, never intended to formalise the shift of funds in terms of the National Treasury process.

The state contents that the five suspect’s intention was from the outset to ignore the legislated imperative that such goods had to be procured through SITA and/or relevant specified contracts. 

The state also states that the five suspects disregarded their duty to comply with the provisions of the PFMA and to ensure that the procurement of said goods had to be fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective, and Gwarube was in charge of the Learning and Teaching Support materials (LTSM) project.  

The state said Gwarube never applied for the budget to be shifted and that Ngonzo, the superintendent general at the time was aware of the budget split but failed to ratify the intended budget split and nothing was reported to Treasury.

“Siegesmund supplied R59 million worth of IT equipment and Fourie signed off the request as if it was for books in order to access the books budget. None of the procurement protocols were followed to appoint Siegesmund as a supplier.

It is alleged a generally corrupt relationship came into existence resulting in Gwarube accepted “gifts” like 26 laptop computers of which two were for personal benefit; a cell phone, Samsung Galaxy mini S4, for the personal benefit; an agreement to accept payment of the amount of R 120 486 from Border Conference Centre into an account under the control of Spectra, an account owned by Siegesmund. 

The case against the five was postponed to 8 July 2021 as one of the accused is set to hand over dockets to the court. 

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