Education officials, businessman still to answer for alleged fraud, corruption

17 May 2021 - 13:01 By TimesLIVE
Four current and former Eastern Cape education officials will have to answer to charges of corruption, fraud and theft. File photo.
Four current and former Eastern Cape education officials will have to answer to charges of corruption, fraud and theft. File photo.
Image: Eugene Coetzee/The Herald

The four current and former senior Eastern Cape education officials and a businessman accused of fraud, corruption and theft will be back in court on July 8. They remain out on bail.

On Monday the five accused appeared briefly in the East London magistrate’s court on charges of corruption, fraud, attempted fraud, theft and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.

The accused are:

  • Noxolo Valencia Gwarube, former chief education specialist in the learner-teacher support material (LTSM) unit;
  • Mthunywa Lawrence Ngonzo, former superintendent general and head of department until the end of June 2014;
  • Raymond Tywakadi, acting secretary-general and head of department from July 1 2014 and current deputy director-general; 
  • Tyronne Fourie, current deputy director IT support services; and
  • Johannes Hermanus Bouwer Smith, a trustee and representative of the Siegesmund Trust, an IT equipment supplier for the provincial education department.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said it was alleged that Gwarube, Ngonzo and Fourie decided the LTSM unit would procure supplementary resource material, specifically IT and including photocopiers, during the 2014-2015 financial year despite the fact it was not budgeted for. 

It was previously sourced by individual schools.

“It is further alleged they did this under the pretence that schools were adequately resourced with textbooks. The message internally was that 80% of the textbook budget would be shifted and used for the procurement of SRM.”

“Generally, any shift of funds within the budget of the department would have required a report to seek approval from National Treasury for the shifting of funds to be used. The accused, in truth and in fact, never intended to formalise the shift of funds in term of the National Treasury process.”

Gwarube, who was in charge of the project, never applied for the budget to be shifted. Ngonzo, the SG at the time, was aware of the budget split but failed to ratify the intended budget split and nothing was reported to Treasury, Ngwema alleged.

Siegesmund supplied R59m worth of IT equipment and Fourie signed off the request as if it was for books in order to access the books budget. None of the procurement protocols were allegedly followed to appoint the company as a supplier.

They were not registered on the database of registered suppliers of the Eastern Cape education department and had very little or no experience or expertise in the supply of IT goods and services, the court heard. 

“It is alleged a generally corrupt relationship came into existence resulting in Gwarube accepted ‘gifts’ like 26 laptop computers, of which two were for personal benefit; a cellphone for personal benefit and; an agreement to accept payment of of R120,486 from Border Conference Centre into an account under the control of Spectra, an account owned by Siegesmund.”

The matter was postponed for copies of the docket to be submitted and to allow Tywakadi’s legal representative to be confirmed.