“Rampant collusion” and “mammoth fraud” between private legal practitioners and the Office of the State Attorney has allegedly been discovered in a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigation.
SIU head Andy Mothibi told the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Tuesday that a criminal investigation into former Gauteng head of the Office of the State Attorney, Kgosi Lekabe, was continuing.
Collusion allegations against Lekabe involve R26.5 million.
He resigned while a disciplinary process against him was under way.
The SIU obtained an order allowing it to freeze his pension of R4 million while the investigation was under way.
They are also in a process of recovering money through the Special Tribunal’s civil process.
In addition, the SIU is investigating three advocates (identified only as Advocate A, Advocate B and Advocate C in the presentation to the committee) for allegedly colluding with Lekabe.
Allegations in the case of Advocate A include fraudulent advance payments, fraudulent hourly rates and claims overpayments involving R34.077 million.
Advocate B is being investigated for similar offences, but the allegations involve an amount of R22m.
The amounts involved in the case of Advocate C are still being quantified.
Advocate C offered to repay some of the amounts that were considered irregular but Mothibi said they would rather investigate the matter properly.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in a vast SIU investigation into matters relating to the Office of the State Attorney.
In another case, a person invoiced the Office of the State Attorney in Johannesburg for more than R123 million for work carried out over three years.
The amount might increase because the person is still working for the office in other parts of the country.
The SIU will provide an interim report to President Cyril Ramaphosa by 30 August.
“There has been a measure of inaction,” Mothibi told the committee.
“And that inaction on the part of the state attorney can be unpacked in terms of irregularities, whether there has been corrupt activities.
“So the state attorney is really not passionate to take over these matters. So we’ve realised, if we do not act as we did, the public interest would be compromised.”
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) also attended the meeting.
Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock said: “It is unconscionable that state attorneys can collude with private lawyers in the manner which they do. We must ensure that we demonstrate action in the courts where we find criminal activity.”
He said attorneys were supposed to be a “special degree of people” who acted in the public interest.
Once the matters are in court, the NPA will ensure that it gets the proper attention, he added.
The investigation into Office of the State Attorney isn’t the SIU’s only work in the justice portfolio.
Mothibi informed the committee that an SIU investigation into the construction of the Limpopo High Court found that more than R6 billion was spent to date – about 100% more than the initial budget of R3 billion.
However, only four courts have been built instead of the planned eight.
A site inspection revealed poor workmanship and low-quality building materials.
The SIU is also investigating more than 150 allegations from the public against officials from the Office of the Master of the High Court.
So far, the SIU identified 15 possible referrals for disciplinary steps and 15 possible criminal referrals to the NPA.
Committee chairperson Bulelani Magwanishe said in a statement released after the meeting that although the committee was pleased with the SIU’ s progress, it remained concerned by the extent of the corruption uncovered.
“Corruption by officers of the court is a serious attack on the justice system. We must do whatever it takes to bring these individuals to book. We cannot accept that the building of courts went 100% over its budget.”
“We will continue to monitor and keep these matters on our radar. The cleaning up of the justice system goes hand in hand with the cleaning up of our society,” Magwanishe said.