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By Getrude Makhafola

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‘Expanded looting’: Civil servants steal R14 million from EPWP funds

The EPWP budget was looted over a period of 10 years.

Government employees posing as beneficiaries of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) have for the past 10 years illegally received R13.8 million meant for the unemployed.

This is according to a written parliamentary reply from Public Works Minister Sihle Zikalala to Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Sello Seitlholo.

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The funds looted since 2014 are yet to be recovered by the State.

Verification unearths the theft

Zikalala said a verification process by his department done on the civil service payroll system Persal at the Department of Public Service and Administration identified suspicious transactions on the EPWP budgets “that may have been lost to corruption, undeserving beneficiaries and theft”.

An estimated amount of R13.8 million may have been lost to corruption across the EPWP sectors and public bodies, said Zikalala.

” The R13.8 million was lost through payments done to underserving beneficiaries benefiting from budgets allocated to the EPWP.

“These participants are assumed to be underserving participants as they appear as permanent government officials on the Persal system,” Zikalala said in his reply.

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He added that his department would develop the means to stop detected illegal payments and recover monies paid through corrupt means.

‘Human cost of corruption’

Seitlholo called on Zikalala to charge the civil servants identified on the Persal system and recover the monies.

“Failure to act now will set a bad precedent and will potentially motivate those who stole EPWP money to re-offend again because they know that nothing will happen to them.

“We have already seen evidence of this impunity with the social grants and the Covid-19 social relief of distress grant,” he said.

The stolen millions, said Seitlholo, could have sustained at least 500 unemployed individuals during the 10 years.

“With a salary of R2 235 per month for one EPWP beneficiary [although beneficiaries always say the amount is not consistent], the stolen money could have provided over 500 more opportunities for the unemployed.

“This is the human cost of corruption on South Africans and the DA will not accept the stance taken by the DPWI not to recover the stolen money and hold the thieves to account,” he said.

Early this year, Public Service and Administration Minister Noxolo Kiviet, revealed that thousands of civil servants were illegally claiming social grants.

At least more than 5 000 of them received the Covid-19 social distress grant in 2020.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) referred 1800 of the cases to law enforcement.

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