A former accountant with the OR Tambo District Municipality in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape has been found guilty of fraud and money laundering after she paid almost R10 million to service providers who had not done any work.
Nyameka Qongqo was found guilty in the Mthatha High Court on Monday after she entered into a plea deal with the state and admitted to defrauding the municipality of R9.8 million a few years ago.
In her plea explanation, Qongqo admitted that from November 2012 to 2014 she was responsible for processing claims from service providers and making payments into their bank accounts.
During the period, she transferred funds from the municipality’s account to companies that belonged to her erstwhile boyfriend, Thobani Notshokovu and her sister, Thumeka Qongqo, without any approval and authorisation as the companies had not rendered any services to the municipality.
She also admitted that she withdrew R200 000 from the money paid to Notshokovu’s company, Zingce Enterprise and Thumeka’s Ogiyonke Construction. With that money she bought a 2014 Golf 7 GTI.
Luxolo Tyali, the provincial spokesperson, said Qongqo was initially charged together with her sister Thumeka, Notshokovu and their companies.
Notshokovu pleaded guilty and turned state witness. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison or a R50 000 fine. The case against Thumeka, who pleaded not guilty, is due in court on March 8.
“The municipal manager blew the whistle in 2014 after noticing suspicious payments and reported the matter to law enforcement authorities. Qongqo was suspended and eventually fired by the municipality after being found guilty in an internal disciplinary hearing. Before today’s conviction, National Prosecuting Authority’s asset forfeiture unit managed to recover some of the ill-gotten funds and assets from Qongqo,” said Tyali.
On October 28 2014, following a preservation order, the Grahamstown High Court granted a forfeiture order against a house in East London, the Golf 7 and six furniture items valued at R2.1 million.
“The appointed curator sold these items on auction and deposited R650 000 into the OR Tambo District Municipality’s bank account in September 2015,” said Tyali.
On November 4 2014, following a second preservation order, the court granted a forfeiture order against bank balances in the names of Qongqo, her sister and the boyfriend as well as furniture items valued at R2.5 million.
By February 4 2015, R1.2 million was deposited into the municipality’s bank account as proceeds of unlawful activities.
Qongqo will be sentenced on Wednesday.
Tyali said on September 15 2016, following a third preservation order, the court granted another forfeiture order against 50% value of two plots of the accused, which the appointed curator sold for R170 000. On October 11 2019 the curator paid the municipality R228 636.
“In total R2.1 million was reimbursed to the municipality, which was expected not to release Qongqo’s pension proceeds until after her conviction to recoup the remaining balance.
“The state asked the court to impose a sentence of 15 years because fraud is very prevalent in the country and the courts have a duty to ensure that would-be fraudsters are deterred from committing crimes against government institutions,” said Tyali.