Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Senior Eastern Cape education officials arrested for R59m fraud, corruption

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published May 17, 2021

Share this article:

Johannesburg - Four former senior officials from the Eastern Cape Department of Education and a company director have been arrested on fraud and corruption charges relating to a R59 million fraud that was meant for purchasing textbooks for pupils in the province.

The five suspects are: former chief education specialist Noxolo Gwarube, 50; former superintendent general Mthunywa Ngonzo, 58; former education deputy director-general Monwabisi Tywakadi, 60; deputy director for IT Tyrone Fourie, 48; and Hermanus Smith, 47, who is the director of Siegesmund Trust.

They were arrested on Monday by members of the Hawks East London Serious Corruption Investigation Team. They were granted R5 000 bail and are expected to appear in court in July, when they will face charges of fraud, corruption and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.

The Hawks allege that the senior education officials had circumvented the department’s supply chain process by procuring a “Supplementary Resource Material” (SRM) agreement to the tune of R59m.

The department had budgeted R209m for the supplying and provision of textbooks, and had planned to procure the SRM in another financial year.

It is further alleged that the department overpaid the Border Christian Centre to the tune of more than R120 000 for venue use for an exhibition. Gwarube allegedly requested that the centre pay the amount, which should have been refunded to the department, into her husband’s bank account. Ngozo allegedly signed off on the payment.

Eastern Cape Hawks spokesperson Captain Yolisa Mgolodela said: “The centre sought direction from the department as to what to do with the money, and Gwarube instructed the centre to deposit the money into her husband’s account. The centre requested a letter from the department authorising the transaction.

“The former superintendent general, Ngozo, wrote the letter, whereas he was already on suspension at the time.”

Mgolodela said the Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM) unit within the department had not intended to procure SRM materials, such as IT resources, photocopiers and other technology materials, in that financial year.

“The LTSM unit, under the control of the accounting officer, had budgeted only for the procurement of textbooks. The LTSM unit never applied for a variation of funds; therefore, their action was not known by Eastern Cape Department of Education and Provincial Treasury.

“It is alleged that the former manager of the Eastern Cape Department of Education at the LTSM unit, Gwarube, misrepresented facts to the department that only textbooks would be procured, by submitting expenditure approval requests to the acting deputy director: institutional operations management.

“It is further reported that a sum of more than R204m was approved for the procurement of textbooks. The SRM in the application was misrepresented as textbooks.

“Gwarube is said to have submitted misleading documents to the Internal Control Unit and Supply Chain Management section that the textbooks were to be procured, knowing well that she had included SRM to the value of more than R59m, thus reducing the money that was meant for textbooks,” said Mgolodela.

The Hawks said Gwarube also received a bribe in the form of two laptops and a cellphone from Siegesmund Trust, the company that was awarded the R59m for SRM material.

“During this orchestration by Gwarube, Tywakadi was the acting superintendent general, as Ngonzo was on suspension. Fourie, as the IT deputy director, was also in office.

“The Eastern Cape Department of Education was defrauded cash to the value of R59m,” said the Hawks.

The five suspects will return to court on July 8.

IOL

Share this article: