Special Investigating Unit freezes state pension payout of fired CFO
The Special Tribunal has cracked the whip on former Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development chief financial officer (CFO) Jacob Hlatshwayo after it ordered the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to freeze his pension benefits.
Hlatshwayo is currently being probed by the SIU over alleged corruption, malpractice and maladministration in relation to the awarding of a personal protective equipment (PPE) contract by the department.
Yesterday, SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said after the SIU brought an application to the Special Tribunal to prevent the GEPF (government employees pension fund) and the department from to paying out the pension of the former CFO, the tribunal issued a temporary order prohibiting the fund from paying out pension benefits to Hlatshwayo.
Kganyago said the tribunal had also called on Hlatshwayo and his legal representatives as the respondents to show cause, if any, by the 1 February, 2021 as to why the order should not be made final.
Kganyago challenged Hlatshwayo and his legal representatives yesterday, saying that it was now up to them to prove to the tribunal the order should not be made final.
“We are investigating a matter where we found he is implicated as proven to court, that is why we got the interim order. We have already proven to court the fact that with the investigation we are doing so far, we are finding he might be implicated and there might be reason for us to recover money from him.
“Therefore we want, when that time comes, to have money somewhere that is already available because if they give him the pension, he will then use the pension and when we’ve got to recover at that time, there won’t be any money to recover,” said Kganyago.
He said that the next appearance before the Special Tribunal would provide an opportunity for Hlatshwayo and his lawyers to convince the court why the order should not be made final and be paid his pension money.
“If they cannot convince the court the order should not be made final, then the order will be made final, so this will give them an opportunity to say why the order should not be made final,” Kganyago.
He added that he did not have a date of the next appearance before the Special Tribunal as yet as there was still a reconciliation of dates that needed to be done following the festive season break, nor did he have an estimate of the amount they needed to recover.
Hlatshwayo was sacked by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in October 2020 in an unrelated manner, although this occurred during the course of the SIU’s investigation into the alleged PPE contracts corruption in which Hlatshwayo is implicated.
Kganyago said following his axing, the first step Hlatshwayo had then done was to apply for his pension.
“We then said before he gets his pension, let us stop him and stop the pension fund from paying him. He has got to now come and prove why it is important that he needs to be paid and if he can’t prove that, the matter will be then finalised,” said Kganyago.
The move to freeze Hlatshwayo’s pension benefits was welcomed by Thandeka Mbabama, DA MP and spokesperson on agriculture, land reform and rural development, who also urged the SIU to pursue similar personal liability costs against all government officials implicated in Covid-19 corruption in line with the findings of SIU investigations.
“Action against Covid-19 corruption needed a move away from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s empty rhetoric on fighting corruption towards practical action that not only sent a warning message to would be offenders but held to account those who were implicated.
“The DA is encouraged that the SIU has taken the initiative to increase the penalty of corruption by going for the financial assets of a corruption accused state official,” said Mbabama.
She added that DALRR Minister Thoko Didiza should now work with the SIU and other law enforcement agencies to identify all the officials who worked with Hlatshwayo to embezzle state funds from the department.