Ministers vow clampdown over state fraud
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says he wants to see people who colluded with the State Attorney to defraud the state through fraudulent legal claims in jail.
“I want people arrested. There are lawyers‚ private lawyers in the Eastern Cape that need to be arrested. Why is it taking so long? We need to break these cartels and networks‚” Motsoaledi said at a briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday.
As a result‚ police minister Bheki Cele said he instructed the head of the Hawks‚ Advocate Godfrey Lebeya‚ on Tuesday‚ to pursue criminal charges against some of those implicated in collusion with the State Attorney's office.
“There are matters where the police has to act... and the SIU (Special Investigations Unit) will continue its work‚” he said.
The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that state attorneys who collude with unscrupulous lawyers have cost taxpayers more than R80-billion by unlawfully settling cases and losing cases by the state.
The department of health is the worst affected‚ followed by the department of police and‚ thirdly‚ correctional services.
The weekend report further noted that the Eastern Cape was the most affected with 80% of claims against the health department‚ in one region‚ are represented by only five lawyers.
Further‚ it emerged that cases were being dropped after the SIU descended upon one legal firm.
The Special Investigating Unit has now set up a team to begin investigating the office of the State Attorney‚ which is expected to last more than 12 months.
SIU head‚ Advocate Andy Mothibi‚ said the investigation will be multi-pronged and include a number of people with different skills.
He said it will include forensic investigators‚ lawyers and even accountants.
“It’s important that we get skills within the team... the actual number of the team will be finalised in a week or two‚” Mothibi said.
Justice Minister Michael Masutha said besides the SIU investigation and the criminal probe‚ there will also be disciplinary action taken.
“We therefore encourage anyone who can assist by providing useful information to avail themselves to the SIU to assist in the investigation‚” he said.
Masutha said they hoped the SIU probe will bring an end to the collusion which sees fictitious claims made against the state.
Motsoaledi confirmed that his department was sued for more than R56-billion in the last financial year in medical malpractice claims and said he believed a lot of it was fraudulent.
“On my own I uncovered that R100-million of that is fradulent‚” he said.
Cele said the police are both victims and perpetrators of this fraudulent activity‚ saying they colluded with the State Attorney in claims against the department.
“Some of our members collide and collaborate with these kinds of people‚” he said.
He said he became aware of a R34-million settlement that was paid unlawfully when the alleged victim was still facing a trial.