Probe into R19m KZN foster care grant fraud

2016-03-08 17:15

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Durban – The KwaZulu-Natal social development department is investigating massive foster care grant fraud at its Empangeni offices, it said on Tuesday.

The fraud involved the processing of 1376 foster care grants for people who did not exist, defrauding the government of R19m, Social Development MEC Weziwe Thusi said.

The department’s Lower Umfolozi office had been closed while the matter was being investigated.

“It’s a pity that people who are at the centre of this fraud are people who are supposed to protect the needy,” said Thusi.

The probe was expected to take two weeks.

The fraud was discovered after Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini appointed a ministerial committee to verify the number of children in foster care.

“The initial probe revealed that the Lower Umfolozi office was among those leading in terms of defrauding the system.”

Thusi said grant payments were temporarily suspended.

“Things came to a head last week when some affected beneficiaries stormed the offices, threatening the office manager. The rioting beneficiaries had to be physically removed from the premises by members of the Public Order Policing unit.”

Thusi said 35 employees, including 29 social workers, had been placed on 60-day leave with immediate effect while the department was introducing changes.

"We have appointed a special task team to individually verify if the grants payments were legitimate. Should there be no warm bodies linked to the payments within three months, the cases will be subjected to a forensic investigation,” said Thusi.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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