Durban - THE director of the KZN Blind and Deaf Society has been suspended pending an investigation into theft of R12 million from the organisation’s bank accounts.
The society’s president, and former Justice of the Constitutional Court, Zak Yacoob, confirmed this week that Shamila Surjoo had been suspended with immediate effect.
“She is under investigation following the discovery of the missing funds. I will act in her capacity until further notice.”
Surjoo confirmed she had been suspended. However, in a statement issued to POST, Surjoo hit back at Yacoob saying the statement he made to the media was incorrect.
“The fraud was in fact uncovered by myself whilst the employee was on maternity leave. I have all the documentary evidence to prove same.
“After disclosing the magnitude of the fraud, I was given an ultimatum by the president to step down as director and go away or have my position redesignated. I refused both options as the fiduciary responsibility in an NPO rests with the board and not with the director.”
Surjoo said in addition she was not a signatory on any of the mandate documents or investment accounts from which monies were accessed.
“My refusal to accept either option has resulted in my suspension. My attorneys, Cox Yeats of Umhlanga, have lodged an unfair labour practice dispute at the CCMA on my behalf as I have suffered an occupational detriment due to making a protected disclosure.”
She said she had enjoyed a 32-year untainted record in the welfare sector.
She added the employee who allegedly committed the theft “to date walks free”.
Yacoob said he did not want to publicly debate with Surjoo but added he disagreed with many elements of her statement.
He said the financial administrator had been reporting directly to Surjoo and it was protocol to question her duties and responsibilities as director of the society.
“All I can say at this stage is that the legal processes must take its course.”
Yacoob said the outcome of the independent disciplinary committee would be announced on Thursday.
POST’s sister publication, The Mercury, reported last week that a senior financial administrator, who had access to the society’s online bank accounts is alleged to have transferred the money into her personal account since 2013.
The woman was fired soon after investigations began last month. Other senior employees, including Surjoo, are in internal disciplinary hearings.
Yacoob has assured the public that the society’s work would continue unaffected.
He said a well wisher had donated R500000 to the organisation which would allow them to keep the society’s doors open.
“The 900 people who come through our doors for development and training will not be affected. Our work will go on. Clients should not have to suffer because of this. We are due to call a special general meeting where we will issue a detailed statement to our donors, assuring them that the society is in good standing at the moment.”
He said it was unfortunate the theft was made at such a late stage and admitted there was failure on the part of its full-time employees.
“They should have taken control of the day-to-day operations.”
He said investigations to date revealed several unqualified audit reports that were done underhandedly.
The organisation uncovered the theft in December 2018 when the banks alerted it to insufficient funds in its accounts.
They had attempted to transfer R400000 from one account to another. However, there was only R300 000 in the account instead of R4.7 million.
The female employee, 27, who was on maternity leave at the time, was contacted for help.
She allegedly duped the society into believing she had successfully transfered the R100 000 that was needed.
However, on checking with the bank, Yacoob found the transaction was fraudulent.
Yacoob said when they realised the accounts had been emptied, interdicts were served to the woman and her husband to seize their bank accounts.
While four signatories were required for the organisation’s bank accounts, the woman had access to its online banking.
This, Yacoob believed, was how she moved the money.
At the time, Yacoob and another board member each contributed R100 000 out of their own pocket to ensure the staff were paid.
Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said they were investigating a case of fraud.