Net1 faces possible third probe over social grants

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It never rains but pours for Net1 UEPS Technologies, which stands to attract another investigation into the manner in which a subsidiary of the company obtained the R10 billion tender to distribute social grants nationally.

It will be the third major probe into the award if the SAPS accepts a request for an investigation from Corruption Watch, an NGO whose executive director, David Lewis, is a former chairman of the Competition Tribunal.

The Hawks previously initiated a probe but dropped that last year. The US Department of Justice and the Securities Exchange Commission are conducting an investigation. The public protector last year indicated that she would pursue a preliminary probe into allegations that the company was illegally deducting monies from the grant beneficiaries.

Lewis makes no bones about his belief that the investigation into allegations that Net1 subsidiary Cash Paymaster Services bribed its way into first place for the tender should have been the subject of a police inquiry long ago.

The trouble with the Net1 story is that a case has been mounted against the firm in a court of public opinion on evidence that has yet to undergo rigorous tests in a properly structured investigation. The allegations of wrongdoing, including the illegal deduction of monies for loans and airtime from the grant beneficiaries and information that has swirled in the media, is appealing. But the real tests have to confirm whether or not the collective sixth sense about the contract has been accurate in its reading of the situation.

The company’s investors probably believe in the integrity of the firm’s management. The stock has clawed back since plummeting 28 percent after the ruling was announced last Thursday. Shares in Net1 jumped 6.55 percent to close at R91.10 on the JSE yesterday.

Sanlam

A big thank you to Sanlam which has done the decent thing by alerting its customers, and the rest of us, to be extra vigilant and keep a close watch for the latest scam to relieve us of our hard-earned funds. And, no, as long as the internet exists, they will never stop coming.

This latest one is a personal loan scam. However, if you follow the pay day loan route currently being forced down our throats, pretty much all personal loans are scams. Willingly entered into, granted, but usurious scams just the same, all cashing in on need and greed in various combinations.

So, apparently sophisticated crime syndicates that are exploiting the current challenging economic conditions (no, not banks) are targeting unsuspecting consumers through a method know as the advance fee scam.

The scam uses legitimate-looking e-mails that promise potential victims loans in exchange for their personal information and request an advance fee for the release of the loan, says Sanlam chief executive of strategic business development Ahmed Banderker. “Sanlam will never ask for any up-front payment of any costs to process a loan application.”

The operation uses e-mail addresses that look similar to those of reputable financial institutions. They may even use the names of actual employees and have staff to answer telephones.

However, the e-mails are often badly formulated with spelling and grammatical errors. This is always a giveaway. English can be challenging, but be warned, such incompetence is not confined to “sophisticated crime syndicates”.

Sanlam requests members of the public to be extra vigilant and carefully check all e-mails and text communications from financial institutions. As they should in any case.

“Remember, if it is too good to be true, it probably is,” says Banderker.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (The Hawks) is investigating.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Asha Speckman.


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