Shamila Surjoo
DURBAN - The director of the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society has been fired as it is alleged that R12 million of the organisation’s funds was stolen on her watch.

Shamila Surjoo was dismissed on Thursday after being found guilty on charges of gross negligence, breach of fiduciary duties and loss of trust. However, Surjoo has denied any wrongdoing and has said she will fight her dismissal.

The society’s president and former Justice of the Constitutional Court, Zak Yacoob, confirmed Surjoo’s dismissal but said she had not been implicated in the fraud.

It is alleged that a 27-year-old woman, who has since been fired by the society, had online authority for four of the organisation’s bank accounts and had allegedly been transferring funds into her personal accounts since 2013.

A case of fraud has been opened with the police.

Justice Yacoob said disciplinary action was taken against Surjoo because she had been the supervisor in charge when the fraud took place.

“I trusted her (Surjoo) and I feel betrayed and personally let down by her,” said Justice Yacoob.

He said the society would survive and he was now working full time as the acting director and “in three months, the organisation will be better than it was before”.

Surjoo said she was not surprised by the dismissal but felt she was unfairly blamed. In a statement, Surjoo said: “The outcome of dismissal comes as no surprise to me as (Justice) Yacoob stated that he would immediately dismiss me when I did not accept his demands of redesignation of my post.

“The society’s labour consultant advised him that I would first have to be suspended.

“I have been ambushed by the board, save for one of the long-standing board members.

She added that she was not a signatory on any of the bank mandate forms and the investment account from which the money was accessed.

Surjoo also said that the fraud was single-handedly uncovered by her.

“I have all the documentary evidence to prove same.”

She said she was prepared to fight to the bitter end to save her reputation and her lawyers had lodged an unfair labour dispute with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

She felt that the focus had been placed on her as the director, and not on the person responsible for the fraud.

“I have enjoyed a 32-year untainted record in the welfare sector and will leave no stone unturned, nor will I spare any expense in this matter. I will certainly not be used as a scapegoat. I have suffered an occupational detriment due to exposing the fraud,” she said.

THE MERCURY