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An alleged scam has been uncovered in the development planning and urban management unit, with one employee already suspended.
CORRUPTION in Joburg is being nipped in the bud. Executive Mayor Parks Tau is cracking down on suspected fraudsters in City departments.

Corruption wont be tolerated, says executive mayor Parks TauCorruption wont be tolerated, says executive mayor Parks TauAt a media briefing at Metro Centre in Braamfontein this morning, Tau said the City had uncovered a scam implicating staff in its development planning and urban management directorate, and “possibly a group of regular customers who colluded to pocket an estimated R10-million of council funds in the past 12 months”.

This scam involves money switching hands when building plans are handed in to officials, with the understanding that the plans will be approved. But the portfolio head of development planning and urban management, Ruby Mathang, pointed out that even after payment was made, the building plans still had to go through the necessary channels before being approved.

One employee has been suspended and it is expected that others will follow the same fate as the investigation progresses. Others at the briefing included the mayoral committee member for public safety, Matshidiso Mfikoe, and the City manager, Trevor Fowler.

Tau explained: “Certain parties took application fees from City customers and generated fraudulent receipts. They shared the spoils of the cash collected from the city’s residential and business customers. City records then reflected the applications as valid registered customers on the basis of proof of payment.”

However, ratepayers and customers were assured that this scam would not affect the processing of their applications, unless current investigations determined that the applicant was part of the scam, said Tau. “After confirmation of the scam, management has taken … immediate steps to minimise the risk of losing more money on a daily basis.”

These included suspending one of its employees and further disciplinary action, assigning the forensic unit to collect evidence of wrong-doing and help law enforcement agencies with further investigations, and changing the departmental processing systems with the outcome of the investigation to limit opportunities for fraud.

The City has also asked that investigators verify indications that the scam may be a contributing factor in the delayed resolution to its billing woes. “Action taken in this scam is in line with the City’s 30-year strategy known as Joburg 2040 [Growth and Development Strategy] on clean governance with a zero tolerance approach to fraud, corruption, bribery and mal-administration,” Tau explained.

“It is also a practical demonstration of building a world-class city that listens to its people, is sensitive to their needs and accepts responsibility for improving the environment they live in.”

He added that at this stage only basic information would be made public, to avoid undermining the on-going investigation into finer details of the scam.

In the broader context of fighting corruption in City departments, “we have been able to make significant progress which resulted in the arrest of a senior by-law public prosecutor following an attempt to withdraw a total of R40 000 [worth of] fines. This matter is still being processed.”

Recently, a Johannesburg metro police department officer was arrested and handed to police after soliciting a R1 000 bribe from a Hillbrow motorist. On the matter involving a metro officer’s alleged attack on an Ivory Park resident, Tau said: “We are awaiting results from an identity parade which was held yesterday.”

Members of the public are encouraged to report any related incidents with regard to the scam to the police or by calling the City’s 24-hour toll free number, 0800 00 587.

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