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R7.5m fraud uncovered at Joburg Fresh Produce Market

| Crime and security

More looting of Joburg ratepayers’ money has been revealed, this time at the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market, where fraud totalling R7.5 million has been uncovered.

Major-General Shadrack Sibiya, head of the anti-corruption unit in the City of Joburg, submitted a report detailing theft, fraud and corruption at the market.

The report found that three officials at the market, alongside three suppliers, allegedly defrauded the city by misrepresenting the amount of various goods received via the market’s procurement processes.

The modus operandi allegedly involved not delivering goods but getting paid, not completing orders and overcharging for what had been delivered, mayor Herman Mashaba pointed out.

“The officials fraudulently misrepresented the completeness of services rendered by some suppliers, causing substantial financial loss to the market.

"One such case of misrepresentation cost residents R1.8m. In another instance, the market overpaid by R5m to a supplier with whom employees of the market had business interests,” he said.

Mashaba revealed on Monday that a criminal case had been registered with the Hawks against all officials and service providers implicated in the investigation. Arrests were imminent.

He said the theft had not only resulted in higher food prices at the market but that the fraud and corruption involved the supply of, among others, bins, transformers and wash basins.

The three implicated officials had been suspended pending the outcome of investigations and all officials named in the report would also face the city’s internal disciplinary proceedings, said the mayor.

Mashaba said despite the commendable work done by most of the city’s public servants, acts of corruption perpetrated by a few derailed their combined efforts to deliver the kind of services that Joburg residents deserved.

“I implore our honest and dedicated city employees to come together to help us root out corruption, so we can show our residents that Joburg possesses a truly competent and professional public service,” he said.

About 40% of all fresh produce destined for the national markets in the country are sold at the Joburg market. An estimated 11000 buyers frequent the market daily.

Other graft cases uncovered since November include a property valuer who was allegedly responsible for the irregular and fraudulent adjustments and devaluing of 22 properties in the city.

The fraudulent adjustments and changes of the market values of the properties by invalid municipal outcomes letters resulted in a loss of revenue estimated at R40m over five financial years.

In another case, there were allegedly 972 fraudulent transactions by licensing centre officials between January 2008 and February 2016.

Nine officials employed at Pioneer Park and the Southern Suburbs swimming pools were expected to face theft charges involving about R40000 stolen between January and December 2015.

This all amounts to over R62m of public money lost to corruption - money that Mashaba said could have been used to provide much-needed service delivery to the poor.

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