Law firm in trouble over inflated bills
Johannesburg - A Pretoria-based law firm is being investigated for allegedly defrauding a government entity of more than R1 million.
This comes after a forensic audit by Ntumba and Associates into the affairs of the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) uncovered acts of fraud and corruption allegedly committed by law firm Ramulifho Inc, when it billed the entity, which falls under the Department of Arts and Culture.
The forensic report was also presented to Parliament last month.
Ramulifho Inc - which is in the same building with PanSALB - was contracted to provide PanSALB with legal services and conduct disciplinary cases on behalf of the entity.
Melusi Ntumba said: “Based on the audit work performed, it is our opinion that the invoices submitted by Ramulifho to PanSALB were significantly inflated deliberately. The inflated amount discovered by the audit is R1 299 928.
“It is our opinion that Ramulifho did forge or tamper with the advocates’ invoices, which in our view is equivalent to fraud. We recommend that [a] criminal case be opened against the director of Ramulifho Inc, Lesley Ramulifho.”
Ntumba said it was up to senior government officials in various departments to report corrupt activities, theft, fraud, extortion, forgery or uttering a forged document.
Ntumba and Associates said section 34 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act No 12 of 2004 indicated that a failure to do so was an offence carrying a penalty of a fine or maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.
PanSALB was also instructed to institute civil action against Ramulifho to recover the R1.2 million.
The entity was also instructed to halt payments due to Ramulifho Inc and to notify it in writing that there would be no further payments.
It was also instructed to terminate with immediate effect the contract with Ramulifho.
The forensic report also found that proper tender procedures were not followed when the law firm was contracted to provide legal services to the entity.
The audit was conducted after PanSALB’s acting chief executive, Mxolisi Zwane, was tipped off about irregular payment to the law firm.
“On the evening of the 19th of June, the caretaker CEO received information from a source notifying him that there was going to be an attempt to pass through and effect a payment of R1.5 million in favour of Ramulifho,” Ntumba said.
Ntumba was appointed on June 20 to investigate the payments.
Reacting to the Ntumba report, Ramulifho said: “I have seen all the PanSALB auditor-general reports and none of them have found our appointment to be irregular. Even if we were, how would we have known that?
“We have not seen the alleged Ntumba report about the perceived claims and unfortunately we cannot comment in vain. [sic]”
In the report Ntumba stated that he interviewed Ramulifho on July 25 and he revealed to them that he had been doing work for the entity since 2008.
PanSALB legal head Sam Jafta said a case of fraud had been opened against Ramulifho and investigations were at an advanced stage.
But Jafta said there was no evidence of the contract being awarded fraudulently to Ramulifho.
“However, should there be evidence that there was complicity on any part of PanSALB employees, appropriate action would be taken,” Jafta said.
Ramulifho’s contract, said Jafta, was terminated.
“A formal complaint has also been lodged with the law society, of which the law firm is a member, for further action. The state attorney has also been instructed to recover any loss that PanSALB might have suffered as a result of the alleged fraud,” Jafta said.
Mashatile’s spokesman, Percy Mthimkhulu, said his political boss was satisfied with the work done by Zwane in dealing with incidences of fraud and corruption by PanSALB.