Master’s office: Radebe on fraud visit

2011-11-01 00:00

JUSTICE Minister Jeff Radebe is to revisit the troubled Pietermaritzburg office of the Master of the High Court early in November to present a plan to end fraud and losses in the Guardian Fund.

Last week a technician working on computer cabling allegedly found a stack of files hidden in the ceiling of one of the offices.

Justice Ministry Spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the documents were not files but turned out to be correspondence.

He said the official in whose office the stash was found has been asked to give a full explanation. “He will have to provide information that must indicate why disciplinary proceedings against him must not be instituted.”

On November 17, 2010, Radebe launched a campaign against corruption in the local master’s office. He said at the time that R80 million had been plundered from the Guardian Fund nationally by corrupt officials and syndicates. The fund holds and administers money paid to the master on behalf of people such as minors and mentally disabled or missing persons.

Radebe told journalists he chose to launch the anti-corruption campaign in Pietermaritzburg because his office has been inundated with calls about alleged corrupt practices in the local office.

It is not clear whether a full-scale investigation has been going at the local office in the past year. Insiders say officials from Port Elizabeth and other and staff of the Justice Ministry head office have spent time in the local office.

Eagerly awaiting Radebe’s announcement are 18 local contract workers in the master’s office, who were dismissed in December 2007 and who have been waging a four-year battle in the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA)to get their jobs back. The workers have long alleged that their dismissal is related to the alleged corruption. Bribery and cronyism are said to have played in role in new staff being hired to replace the dismissed workers.

The workers won their case in the CCMA, but the local master’s office appealed. Asked whether Radebe will address their plight, Tlali said more details will be given when the minister visits.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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