Metro nabs diesel thieves

2014-07-11 00:00

TWO municipal employees accused of stealing over half a million rands’ worth of diesel face the axe and criminal prosecution.

The men, workers from the eThekwini Metro’s parks department, are accused of taking nearly 40 000 litres of diesel from the city over a year before they were nabbed.

Their massive haul — which could theoretically send a super link truck around the Earth’s 40,076 km circumference more than once — was brought to an end by the Metro Police last year.

By night the two surreptitiously syphoned diesel and then quietly returned their truck to a city depot unnoticed.

Their protracted disciplinary hearing, which started last year, is expected to sit again next week. A well-placed police source close to the investigation, who could not be named as he is not authorised to speak to the press, said a case had been opened after the city’s fleet management department picked up a diesel usage anomaly.

He said that the alleged diesel theft happened after darkness fell.

“After spikes in usage were picked up, the parks truck was closely monitored. It was found that two officials were taking the truck out at night, filling it up with diesel and then syphoning the tank and returning it to the depot, coming back in the morning to use it for their work in the daytime,” he said.

“They will be charged for a smaller amount, but we think that the total they were able to steal without detection was massive,” the officer added.

Durban boasts a city fleet of over 7 000 vehicles, all of which are monitored electronically to root out fraud and corruption.

Spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng said that the city was taking a strong stance against theft within their ranks.

“The arrest of two employees in the City Fleet Unit recently demonstrates that the municipality will not tolerate the unauthorised use of vehicles, resources and corruption.”

Mofokeng said that thorough investigations into similar cases were a warning to wayward civil servants.

“The first case involved an employee syphoning fuel by filling the vehicle’s tank on numerous occasions each day. The City’s Metro Police Dog Unit, together with City Fleet officials conducted an investigation leading to a bust, which resulted in the employee being arrested and dismissed.”

“Vehicle Investigations manager Dieter Meyer, working in conjunction with the Durban Metro Police Dog Unit, were made aware of fuel syphoning and planned an operation whereby they watched the movement of the vehicle and when it went to locations where the fuel syphoning was suspected, they moved in and arrested the employee,” Mofokeng added.

“Another case involved an employee who set up a bogus hijacking incident. He had used the council vehicle outside the boundaries of the municipality without authorisation. He crashed the vehicle under the pretence that he was saving himself from the hijackers. Upon investigation, it was found that the employee’s version of the story did not match that of the vehicle tracking reports. A criminal case was subsequently opened.”

City Fleet Unit head Malcolm Joshua said that criminal activity would not be tolerated.

“In cases where employees are found committing any criminal offence, the employee will be disciplined internally and criminal charges will be instituted.”

Every municipal vehicle is fitted with a tracking device which is monitored live. This data is recorded and can be accessed at a later stage for investigation purposes. “The vehicle monitoring system has enhanced fleet operations and improved customer service while maintaining cost efficiency,” said Joshua.

“Through tracking we have been able to curtail fuel wastage due to excessive speeding and idling, the misuse of vehicles for private purposes and have assisted in the protection of employees during hijackings and accidents.”

He said in the last financial year City Fleet has dealt with three cases of fuel theft, in which eight employees have been arrested together with four civilians who purchased stolen fuel.

Six employees face disciplinary hearings, one employee was dismissed and one employee has resigned.

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