File picture: Pixabay

Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of e-Government said on Monday it had instituted a forensic investigation into private companies it partnered with to send 50 young people to Germany as Artificial Intelligence interns, after identifying problems with the programme.

The department entered into a partnership with Ntsumi Telecommunications, Liaport Africa and IBA Global Training in response to the acute shortage of skills in the ICT sector, as well as youth unemployment, spokesperson John Sukazi said.

He said the companies, together with the National Youth Development Agency, had approached the department stating that they were looking for 50 ambitious and proactive interns who would be trained in Artificial Intelligence, Semantic Texting and Robotics.

“The department has a number of partnerships with the private sector that seek to accelerate the attainment of digital skills amongst young people in the province and it was in this context that an agreement was entered into," Sukazi said.

"As soon as the department picked up that there were problems with the programme which resulted in the interns returning to South Africa, it instituted a forensic investigation into whether there was a fraudulent intent on the part of the companies it had partnered with."

He said upon their return to South Africa, the students were enrolled in a proper training programme, and would upon completion of this year-long internship be offered contracts for a further 12 months ending on July 31, 2019.

Should the forensic investigation reveal malpractice, the department will lay criminal charges against the companies, Gauteng member of the executive committee for e-Government Barbara Creecy said.

She warned private companies against taking advantage of desperate young people struggling to find employment.

African News Agency (ANA)