‘Spy ware' used in fraud

2007-11-21 00:00

Allegations that “spy software” was installed on Education Department computers to access “user identities and passwords of employees” are contained in a charge sheet relating to a R2,6 million fraud allegedly perpetrated on the department in April 2007.

Sipho Sthembiso Msomi (36) of Kempton Park appeared before Pietermaritzburg magistrate Brad Osborne yesterday in connection with the charges.

It was unclear whether the case is linked to two men - Msunduzi Maxwell Mkhize (33) of Ulundi and Thulani Psychology Ngubane (31) of Ntuzuma on the north coast - who appeared in the same court yesterday in connection with a R1,8 million fraud allegedly perpetrated on the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) - the department that handles government grants.

Sassa said in a statement last night that the two men are believed to be part of a fraud syndicate and further arrests are expected.

All three accused were remanded in custody until November 22 - for Mkhize and Ngubane to appoint lawyers - and in the case of Msomi, for a possible bail application.

The fraud charges against Msomi are that during April this year he acted with others, unknown to the state, to defraud the Education Department of R2 625 794,82 by inducing the department to believe that 12 companies were entitled to payments for services that they never rendered.

Three further charges relate to the alleged unlawful procurement, use and installation in the department's computers of a computer program or component, “Win Spy” spy software. The software was allegedly used to gain access to data, including user identities and passwords, of department employees.

Mkhize - identified by Sassa as an employee of the Education Department - and Ngubane, a former Education employee and current official of Sassa in finance, are charged with defrauding Sassa of R1 852 986,55 between September and October this year.

The charge sheet alleges that they also, with people unknown to the state, loaded information on to the accounting system indicating that three businesses were entitled to payment for services that they did not render.

Christi Naudé, spokeswoman for Education MEC Ina Cronjé, was unable to confirm details on Msomi's court appearance.

In a statement, Sassa's acting regional executive manager for KZN, Dianne Dunkerley, said Sassa is committed to fighting fraud and corruption, but added that the accused remain “innocent until proven guilty” and that the law should take its course.

Sassa revealed that Ngubane was employed as a finance clerk and was arrested at the agency's offices on Monday.

Sassa said he was suspended within two hours of his arrest pending an internal investigation.

Mkhize was said to have been arrested by the SAPS on November 10.

Sassa said the alleged fraudulent payments to the three suppliers were all made after hours using stolen passwords.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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