DA calls Mpumalanga suspensions over R10m cybercrime a witch-hunt

2013-10-20 05:00

A municipality in Mpumalanga has suspended two of its finance officials suspected of being involved in cybercrime that cost the council about R10 million, but the opposition has described it as a witch-hunt against officials who have tightened financial controls.

Thandeka Mavuso, the spokesperson for the Gert Sibande District Municipality in Ermelo, said the council suspended the chief finance officer and his deputy on October 10.

“They were suspended with immediate effect on the strength that their user profiles were used to approve the transactions amounting to R9.7 million. Therefore, the fact that their user profiles were used is enough evidence to pin them as conspirators in this regard,” Mavuso said.

She said the council had requested the Mpumalanga department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs to assist with investigating the matter.

Mavuso said the alleged crime took place in February last year.

The DA has, however, expressed doubt that any charges against the officials would stick. Its members staged a walkout when ANC councillors took the resolution.

DA caucus leader in the municipality Mark De Waal said the council resolution to suspend the duo was not taken lawfully.

“Nothing informed us on what basis they (ANC councillors) suspended the CFO and his deputy. We were given a confidential report with recommendations by the municipal manager and there was no legal recommendation for the council to consider,” said De Waal.

“These officials can pursue legal action for unfair labour practice. We understand this as a witch-hunt because they were tightening controls and the municipality has been achieving clean audits,” he added.

Three other Mpumalanga municipalities have been victims of cybercrime recently:

» The Hawks acted in time to stop a hacking syndicate from transferring R39 million of the Govan Mbeki Municipality’s (Secunda) money in March.

Four men, including the municipality’s IT technician, were arrested. They had allegedly fleeced R2.6 million from the municipality already.

» Two officials of Thaba Chweu (Lydenburg) Municipality were arrested last October after R3.2 million disappeared from the council’s account.

» Three Mbombela officials were arrested in 2011 after R2.7 million went missing from its account.

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