- A former Western Cape municipal official was granted R500 bail for allegedly stealing electricity, pocketing more than R1.3 million.
- National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson, Eric Ntabazalila, said the official pleaded with the court for R500 bail.
- He told the court that it's what he could afford because he is unemployed.
A former Western Cape municipal employee was granted R500 bail for the alleged theft of R1.3 million of electricity.
Pieter Jacobus Adams is alleged to have issued more than 700 000 units of free electricity tokens to customers with prepaid meters in exchange for cash.
Adams appeared in the Piketberg Magistrate's Court in the Western Cape on Tuesday, where his case was transferred to the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court for his first appearance on 24 March.
When asked about the R500 bail - compared to the R1.3 million he allegedly pocketed through fraud - Western Cape's National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson, Eric Ntabazalila, said Adams pleaded with the court for the settlement.
"The accused is unemployed, and he pleaded with the court that this [R500] is the only amount he can afford. He also has a fixed address. [It] needs to be understood that bail is not meant to be punitive but to ensure that the accused returns to court."
Adams is charged with 473 counts of fraud for allegedly allocating free electricity to households and businesses, pocketing more than R1.3 million paid by the recipients of that electricity.
Ntabazalila said Adams was a chief clerk: credit control in the Bergrivier Municipality from 1 July 2002 until his resignation on 25 November 2019.
READ | Development Bank of SA leads R2bn project to restore gutted parliamentary buildings over two years
"His responsibilities included ensuring that electricity is provided to the correct consumers, adding new prepaid meters to the prepaid system, and submitting any suspected tampering of metering units to the water/electricity department for further investigation," said Ntabazalila.
The State alleges that Adams issued electricity to people every month from 2016 to 2019, for which the municipality received no payment.
"The State further alleges that Adams issued 'free' replacement tokens to meters which were not replaced, and no documentation could be found for any of the above-mentioned meter numbers," said Ntabazalila.
Ntabazalila said Adams' fraudulent scheme was brought to light on 19 September 2022.
Ntabazalila said that the municipality discovered that the prepaid electricity meter in Adams' residence was replaced and changed to an indigent tariff.
"The municipality decided to investigate and discovered that from March 2016 until September 2019, the suspect [allegedly] issued free electricity tokens on prepaid meters not replaced by prepaid meter customers. It was also detected that free electricity tokens were issued monthly for the same prepaid meters," said Ntabazalila.
He said investigations found that Adams apparently issued more than 700 000 units of free electricity tokens between March 2016 and September 2019 to prepaid meters for customers, which he had no authority to do.
"He [allegedly] received the cash from the customers, kept it for himself, and then loaded the free electricity tokens on the system for the customers, which he was not entitled to do. No supporting documents could be found to issue free electricity tokens generated by the suspect," said Ntabazalila.