‘Ghost teachers’ haunt Portia Sizani in R1.2m fraud trial

2014-08-21 17:47

More primary school principals testified at the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court about how ANC chief whip Stone Sizani’s wife, Portia, used their schools to defraud the department of education of R1.2 million.

Sizani, 46, faces 31 counts of fraud and money laundering for crimes allegedly committed when she worked as the department’s co-ordinator for early childhood development (ECD) centres between 2009 and 2010.

She allegedly organised “ghost” Grade R teachers for early childhood development centres in and around the city; and tricked unemployed people to volunteer as teachers in the hope of getting jobs while Sizani was pocketing their salaries.

Her husband was MEC for education in the province from 1999 until 2002.

Today, some of the school principals testified that Sizani had recommended teachers to their schools under the pretence that they were “volunteers”.

Some of the these teachers would stay for several months until they found real jobs, while others were not even known to these principals as they simply never pitched for work.

The court heard today that different methods were used in these schools, which constituted mainly primary schools, with the focus being on Grade R.

One primary school principal told Magistrate Mputumi Mpofu that Sizani allocated five teachers to her school alone to work as “volunteers”.

The court also heard that in some of these schools, the volunteers became redundant, often sitting around and doing nothing.

Some of these volunteers did not even qualify as early childhood development teachers.

Sizani, wearing a velvet navy-blue dress and gold earrings, often looked down when not taking notes on her diary during court proceedings.

She appeared with a small group of supporters.

The state alleges that Sizani organised work for “ghost” teachers, some of whom did not even exist, while those who existed were conned in the process.

The assumption of duty forms would be signed by the volunteers and the signature of the school principal and school stamp would be forged.

When the documents reached the department, they would be processed by Sizani herself and the salaries would be paid to the accounts of the “volunteer” teachers.

She would then call them later to say the salaries were paid to them mistakenly and ask them to withdraw the money and give it to her.

In some cases the assumption of duty forms would say the volunteer teachers were at the schools longer than they actually were and lump sums of between R20 000 and R25 000 would be paid by the department to the bank accounts of the teachers.

Tomorrow, the state is expected to call some of the bogus teachers to testify against Sizani.

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