Cape Town - A former volunteer who is known to the Weekend Argus has blown the whistle on alleged underhand dealings at the Al-Noor Orphanage Centre.
The overseas volunteer said the orphanage had been allegedly diverting food from Woolworths to manager Amina Okpara’s house.
“She would take children from the orphanage to her house so the food would be taken there. The kids would not get anything. The food that would get back to the orphanage was like nothing. The children would not get enough food and were always hungry.”
Al-Noor staff was handed an eviction notice last week by the City of Cape Town. However, their facility manager Nkululeko Mboniswa told the Weekend Argus that the City had not been back to evict them as they told the mayor they (the staff) would not be backing down in their meeting.
“The only people who have been here are officials from the Department of Social Development, because someone tipped them off that we had kids here. For now, we are here and still operating but with outreach projects like a soup kitchen for older people,” said Mboniswa.
The eviction notice came in the wake of allegations of sexual assault of a number of children who were housed at the facility and removed, leading to the Department of Social Development suspending the orphanage’s registration earlier this month.
The department conducted a preliminary investigation into the situation at Al-Noor after being alerted by a child who had lived at the centre.
Okpara was arrested for fraud and corruption on June 14 - two days after the orphanage was shut down and 17 children removed. She now faces further charges, including sexual offences.
It’s alleged Okpara redirected donor funds meant for daily operations of the centre into her personal bank account. She was arrested during a sting operation by the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation team.
Around 30 loaves of bread would be delivered to the orphanage and all the white bread would allegedly go to staff and the brown bread would be left over. It would be fed to the pigeons, claimed the volunteer.
A Woolworths spokesperson said: “We are looking into the matter and we will provide further details once we have all the information.”
Another red flag for him was when bed linen was delivered for the children but it was later found to be sold when donors visited two days later.
“She was so deceiving. A food garden was started and people gave donations for it. However, the money was never invested in it. There was a time she tried to slip me some money to sweeten me up. I said no, another reason I left.”
A Dutch charity Stichting Projecten Zuid-Afrika, which supported Al-Noor’s holiday school activities for a number of years, contacted the Weekend Argus this week about the transparency and accountability of the orphanage.
“We discovered that the organisation is managed and governed by people who are not interested in transparency and accountability. Instead, they evaded responsibility. We received numerous excuses like ill health, traffic accidents, urgent matters at work, and family problems just before the deadline or a meeting,” said Martje Nooij, a trustee of Stichting Projecten Zuid-Afrika.
Finally, they decided to ask an accountant to do a forensic investigation for them and for a Belgian donor.
“However, although we think the grant money was used for other purposes, we have never been able to prove it, because Al-Noor refused to co-operate.”