Pay me for your jobs

President Jacob Zuma launches the third phase of the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) in Keiskammahoek near King Williams. File Photo: Elmond Jiyane

President Jacob Zuma launches the third phase of the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) in Keiskammahoek near King Williams. File Photo: Elmond Jiyane

Published Apr 23, 2015

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Durban - Residents of a Durban township were forced to pay half of their meagre salaries, received as part of a government jobs programme, to a ward committee member for apparently organising their employment.

And it has emerged that some of the workers have been paid for months, and done no work.

There are also fears that this jobs-for-cash racket is widespread in South Africa.

A Daily News investigation into an Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) contract - awarded to the impoverished community of Burlington near Shallcross for six general workers - has established that a corrupt official was using the programme to run a jobs-for-cash racket.

The EPWP is a national government initiative aimed at creating 8 million job opportunities for unemployed South Africans through subsidies administered through provincial and municipal authorities. The jobs range from street cleaning, to community safety and fire-fighting.

Recipients are employed on a part-time basis and are used to assist local authorities.

Each of the six Burlington residents who had been employed as part of the EPWP were told to pay R1 000 of their R2 000 monthly salary to a ward committee member whose name is known to the Daily News.

Despite several attempts to get hold of him, he could not be reached for comment.

The six, who had all handed two tranches of R1 000 in December and January to the ward committee member, were told that the payment was for “political money”.

The Daily News’s findings have prompted the national Department of Public Works to launch an investigation into the Burlington contract.

A Burlington community leader, who did not want to be named, said he had also lodged a complaint with the city’s integrity unit.

Officials believe the racket is prevalent in communities across South Africa.

Deputy Public Works Minister Jeremy Cronin said that he had often heard of allegations of corruption plaguing the EPWP programme. But the information provided by the Daily News was the first time he had received “hard information”.

“We want to clamp down on this practice because it gives what is otherwise a very good programme, a bad name,” Cronin said.

“Leaving aside the money (and) corruption, which appears to have happened here, there is also the danger of it being used as a political tool where those in power would only employ people who have IFP cards, ANC cards or DA cards, although that is not the requirement for being selected…”

 

Some of the Burlington residents who had received payments from the EPWP since December admitted that they had never worked a day despite getting paid.

The Daily News is in possession of a copy of a sworn statement signed by two contract workers in which they state they paid money to the ward committee member.

The Daily News also has a copy of a bank statement reflecting EPWP funds deposited despite the recipient confirming not having worked. The pair, who did not want their names published as they feared for their safety, said they were angry at having to give away half of their salary “for nothing”.

They claimed a councillor had given them EPWP contract forms for the jobs.

The first payment from EPWP was made at the end of December.

 

“R2 000 is not a lot of money and for someone to tell you that they want half because they organised the job makes me feel bad,” said one recipient.

“When I asked this man, ‘why are you taking my money?’ he said it was for politics and to pay the officials at the municipality.”

 

Ward 65 councillor, Chris van den Berg, said he was aware of the allegations and planned to write to city manager, S’bu Sithole.

eThekwini Municipality spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said the city encouraged those with proof of corruption to report it to its

Integrity and Investigations Unit.

“However, the municipality does not discuss details pertaining to internal investigations against any member of staff including councillors with a third party as these matters are confidential.”

Stanley Khoza, president of the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union, the biggest union in the eThekwini Municipality, said the EPWP was ripe for corruption as jobs were administered via ward committees and not the city’s human resources department.

“While I cannot confirm this particular incident, the corruption there does not surprise me.

“Extended public works jobs are not advertised as other posts as they go through ward committees, which means it can be easily manipulated by ward committee members and councillors to favour certain people or solicit money,” he said.

“The sad thing about this is that these people are targeting the poorest of the poor with this sort of corruption.”

Deputy Public Works Minister Jeremy Cronin said his department encouraged communities to conduct “lotteries” for jobs.

“In some provinces and municipalities, what happens is that a community meeting is announced and any who want to participate in the EPWP programme will have their names put in a box and there will be a draw for those posts, including a reserve list,” he said.

“These things do happen and we need to send a very strong message that it will not be tolerated. We need to make an example and clamp down on it.”

Cronin said officials from the national department would investigate the allegations.

Daily News

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