The sentencing of former OR Tambo district municipality project accountant, Nyameka Qongqo, convicted of fraud and money laundering, after admitting to stealing R9.8 million from the municipality, has been postponed.
The Mthatha High Court postponed the sentencing to 25 March for the submission of probation and correctional reports, said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Qongqo had entered into a plea and sentence agreement with the state and admitted to defrauding the municipality of about R9.8 million.
From November 2012 to November 2014, Qongqo was the authorised officer responsible for processing claims from service providers and effecting payments to their bank accounts.
In her plea explanation, she admitted that during that period she transferred funds from the municipality to companies that belonged to her ex-boyfriend, Thobani Notshokovu, and her sister, Thumeka Qongqo, without any approval and authorisation, as there were no services rendered by these companies.
She further admitted that she withdrew R200,000 from the money paid to Notshokovu’s company, Zingce Enterprise, and Thumeka’s Ogiyonke Construction.
With the R200,000 she paid for a 2014 Golf 7 GTI through EFT to a motor dealer.
Qongqo was initially charged together with her sister, Notshokovu, and their companies. Notshokovu pleaded guilty and turned State witness.
Notshokovu was subsequently sentenced to 10 years imprisonment or a R50 000 fine.
The case against Thumeka, the only one of the three to have pleaded not guilty, is due in court on 8 March 2021.
According to the NPA, it was the OR Tambo district municipal manager who blew the whistle in 2014 after noticing suspicious payments and reported the matter to law enforcement authorities.
Qongqo, 43, was suspended and eventually fired by the municipality after being found guilty in an internal disciplinary hearing.
NPA spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said before the conviction on Wednesday, the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) managed to recover some of the ill-gotten funds and assets from Qongqo.
On 28 October 2014, following a preservation order, the Makhanda High Court granted a forfeiture order against a house at 8 Revereed Place, Estuary, in East London, the aforementioned Golf 7 vehicle and six furniture items, with an estimated value of 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.
On 4 November 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 estimated to be worth R2.5million.
By 4 February 2015, another sum of R1.2 million was deposited into the municipality’s bank account as proceeds of unlawful activities.
On 15 September 2016, also 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 plus other items. On 11 October 2019, the curator paid the municipality a sum of R228 636.
A total of 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, said Tyali.
“The State asked the court to impose a sentence of 15 years imprisonment, because fraud was very prevalent in the country and the courts had a duty to ensure that would-be fraudsters were deterred from committing crimes against government institutions,” said Tyali.