PMB NGO shut after R3m fraud uncovered
Durban - THE Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) has closed its door after more than 40 years of working for human rights because of misappropriation of funds within the organisation.
Since news of the closure became public knowledge this week, retrenched Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa ) staff told The Mercury that the closure was due to mass misappropriation of funds, and not lack of funding as the board alleges.
The group of former staff members speaking condition of anonymity said they were intimidated by messages from the board, demanding their silence about the alleged fraud and misappropriation of funds.
A senior staff member, who asked not to be named, said “A senior financial/HR manager was found to be misappropriating funds for the years 2015 to 2017. We believe it's millions, at least R3 million in three years.”
“We have a very detailed requisition process for authorising payments and I picked it up and was told by the implicated manager that the director had authorised it (the payment). Our regular auditors did not pick up anything and if it wasn’t for that irregular payment related to a service provider’s bank account, which was actually one of this manager’s accounts, we would still be in the dark. I noticed other irregular internal transfers between funders and company accounts and that raised alarm bells,” she said.
The staff member then informed the then director, expecting immediate action. “The board was informed but there was further frustration. A month later we heard that the implicated staff member was suspended pending an investigation. However, this suspension was with full pay and still in the office with access to all the online banking accounts.”
The senior financial manager had allegedly syphoned money out of a core donor account in the time of her suspension. “Within a few months staff were aware of hundreds of thousands of rand worth of donor funds that were missing. However, our hands were tied, as she was still employed with a salary and access to the bank accounts,” said the frustrated staff member.
Another former finance employee said “We had proof of what happened and we had found the bank accounts that the funds went into, it was at least a dozen different private accounts of the implicated staff member. There was immediate dismissal of a former senior manager who was under investigation for fraud amounting to R20 000. The organisation’s policy is quite clear on fraud and theft, yet this was not done. As far as we know there was a criminal case being investigated, but as staff we received no feedback. A lot of things could have been prevented, including the organisation’s financial crisis which has now resulted in it closing its doors and the vulnerable communities losing out on access to our programmes,” she said.
The audit prompted a second forensic investigative which revealed that a total of R3.3m had been misappropriated.
John Inglis, former chairperson of Pacsa said: “I’m no longer on the council and have not been for a while. Unfortunately I have asked and nobody from the board is willing to speak,” he said.
A source close to the Pacsa board, however, confirmed the allegations of at least R3m of a core donor’s funds being misappropriated.
“It's terribly disappointing that the organisation has been broken by the actions of greedy officials who had a high level of trust placed in them. Like with any corruption, it's the poor and marginalised that are most in need of support that have been compromised and left stranded,” the source said.
Joan Kerchhoff, 83, who co-founded Pacsa with her husband Peter, was saddened by the “unfortunate way it all panned out”. “I worked at Pacsa many years ago and recently resigned from the board. We did great work in the greater Pietermaritzburg communities and covered a wide field with socio economic rights and our basic food basket barometer that brought up issues of the poor, gender justice, youth development and HIV. I was in touch with staff and Pacsa was doing excellent work for a long time. The fraud and theft makes me very sad; obviously donors will pull out,” she added.