Private school in Pretoria accused of theft
Pretoria - A private school in Pretoria has been accused of stealing school fees, defrauding a textbook supplier of more than R100 000 and never registering with the Gauteng Department of Education.
Now the department has called on pupils’ parents to lodge a formal fraud case against the school while it finds other institutions in which to take the pupils.
Crede Deo Academy in Pretoria North is a boarding school for pupils between grades 8 and 12, established just over two years ago.
But on Thursday, one of the school’s financial administrators, Bernadette Dixon, was arrested on a fraud charge instigated by bookshelf.co.za, a company that provides bulk deliveries of textbooks to schools.
Angela Gibson, the owner of the company, said her business relations with the school were normal at first. They had ordered a large number of textbooks for the 2013 school year and had been prompt in paying their debts.
However, at the beginning of the year, the school ordered twice the amount of textbooks, worth more than R100 000, and subsequently refused to pay.
Gibson was promised deposits and provided with seemingly fraudulent proof of payment documents – seen by The Star – but the money never arrived in her company’s account.
But after months without pay, the massive toll the financial loss had on her business meant she had no choice but to report the incident to the police.
On Thursday, Hillbrow police officers arrested the woman who had signed off on the deal, and she was given bail for the fraud charges the same day.
According to Hillbrow police spokesman Warrant Officer Richard Munyai, the investigation is still continuing into other allegations laid against the school.
The department has also sent cease-and-desist letters to the school in a bid to have it shut down its operations immediately.
“The school was never registered with the department… We call on parents to lodge fraud cases against the school. They have (illegally) taken their school fees,” Department of Education spokeswoman Phumla Sekhonyane said.
She said officials would be meeting with staff at the school in the next few weeks to find other institutions that could take on the pupils for a proper education.
Attempts to contact the school for comment have been increasingly difficult.
When The Star contacted Crede Deo on Tuesday morning to speak to principal Simone Fourie, the receptionist first said they had not seen her for more than a week.
Another official then said Fourie had been in hospital and was unavailable for comment.
A man proclaiming to be the vice-principal, but who would identify himself only as “JJ”, said he would get in touch with Fourie to create a statement regarding the fraud allegations.
However, upon further contact, he asked The Star to get in touch via an e-mail that appeared to be for the school’s legal representatives. Contact numbers for the law firm were out of service and no response was received via e-mail.
JJ also would not take subsequent calls or respond to text messages.
Meanwhile, when The Star visited the school on Tuesday afternoon, a staff member told a potential client that registrations for next year could be started only after the school had heard from its lawyers.