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By Getrude Makhafola

Premium Journalist

Four staffers in hot water over stolen millions at justice department

Payments from the Guardian's Fund were stopped following the theft, leaving beneficiaries stranded.

Four Department of Justice and Correctional Services employees face suspensions after millions of rand were stolen from its Guardian’s Fund.

Insiders say an investigation identified the alleged thieves accused of syphoning money from the fund.

“A probe was launched after the hacking incident was found a few weeks ago. Investigators discovered fraudulent transactions.

“Their suspension is looming,” said a source who wouldn’t be identified as they are not allowed to speak to the media.

According to the Sowetan, around R18 million was stolen through a cyber attack two months ago.

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Hackers had previously targeted the department, halting its IT systems and court services nationwide.

Beneficiaries affected

The Guardian’s Fund administers monies for beneficiaries who cannot manage their finances such as minors, unborn heirs, and missing or absent persons.

The Master of the High Court manages the fund at six master’s offices in Cape Town, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg and Grahamstown.

News site GroundUp reported last week that payments were stopped following the theft in April, leaving beneficiaries stranded.

The money in the Guardian’s Fund is invested in the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and audited annually.

A list of unclaimed funds and beneficiaries’ names is published in the Government Gazette every year in September.

‘No hacking’

The action against the staffers comes after Justice Minister Ronald Lamola on Monday signed a cooperation agreement with French Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna to fight cyber crimes.

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Government says the agreement is meant to boost the Special Investigating Unit in investigating cyber and financial crimes, and analytical skills.

An anti-corruption academy will also be established in Pretoria to train investigators from across the continent.

Lamola’s spokesperson Chrispin Phiri confirmed that an investigation pointed to four employees.

“The department wasn’t hacked; it was fraud. A case was opened, and the police investigation continues,” he said.

According to experts, government and its entities are vulnerable to ransomware attacks due to poor information technology management.

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