Ex-top cop to probe school subsidy fraud
Johannesburg - Former police commissioner George Fivaz has been appointed to probe the alleged embezzlement of education funds by a priest.
"The investigation will look whether anyone from the department may have assisted in this crime through commission or omission," Gauteng education spokesperson Charles Phahlane said on Thursday.
"A review will be conducted of the finances of all independent schools in Gauteng that have been subsidised."
Phahlane confirmed that around R20m had been allocated to the 73-year-old priest to run two schools.
One was in the Ramaphosa informal settlement in Germiston and the other in Denver, south of Johannesburg.
Both schools would be closed down, said Phahlane.
"We will be convening meetings with affected learners and parents next week to offer them alternative placement in state schools.
"Our immediate focus will be on the Grade 12s in both schools who can be accommodated in the matric revision camps that we are running in the province to consolidate matric learning."
The priest was arrested in a sting operation on Wednesday.
Phahlane said: "We had paid the first three quarters of the money, but the last quarter has been frozen because of this."
The subsidy was dependent on how many children attended the schools, and where they were based. One in an informal settlement would receive a higher amount than a school in a suburb.
The priest was arrested when he tried to pay a bribe so that the multi-million rand corruption and fraud would not be disclosed, said Hawks spokesperson Colonel McIntosh Polela.
The priest initially offered to pay R1.2m and upped it to R7m. At the time of his arrest, he was carrying R50 000.
Polela said the man received R20m from the Gauteng education department to run the two schools, and there were allegations that the money was misused.
"We are investigating the matter. This involves the department of education and the department of local government. The buildings he uses belong to the department of local government," he said.
Phahlane said the department would co-operate with police to ensure a successful prosecution.
The SA Revenue Service (Sars) had received a report against the priest, spokesperson Adrian Lackay said.
"Sars views the complaint and the arrest in a very serious light and wants to pursue the matter further."
He said Sars would not tolerate the abuse of the national fiscus for self-enrichment.
The priest was expected to appear in the Boksburg Magistrate's Court on Friday.
The Democratic Alliance voiced concern over the way subsidies paid to Gauteng schools were being controlled.
"This [the arrest] could have been avoided in the first place had departmental officials done a more thorough job in checking that money was properly spent," DA MPL Khume Ramulifho said in a statement.
He said it was important to hold officials to account. The party welcomed the appointment of Fivaz to investigate the matter and determine the nature and scale of the problem.