SSA lost R125m without a trace during Arthur Fraser's watch, Loyiso Jafta tells state capture inquiry

26 January 2021 - 17:27 By mawande amashabalala
State Security Agency acting director-general Loyiso Jafta at the state capture inquiry in Johannesburg on January 26 2021.
State Security Agency acting director-general Loyiso Jafta at the state capture inquiry in Johannesburg on January 26 2021.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The State Security Agency (SSA) lost R125m from its coffers without anyone accounting for the money during the 2017/18 financial year - and the money was allocated to operations housed in the office of then SSA director-general Arthur Fraser.

This is according to acting SSA director-general Loyiso Jafta, who was testifying at the state capture inquiry on Monday.

Jafta said there was widespread abuse of money at the agency, particularly because most money movements were done in cash.

Fraser was sent packing in April 2018 shortly after President Cyril Ramaphosa took over the top seat at the Union Buildings.

Jafta was appointed in Fraser’s place and was tasked with turning around the agency, which had degenerated into a free-for-all affair during former president Jacob Zuma’s years.

According to Jafta, no action was taken against Fraser, under whose nose the R125m “disappeared” without anyone able to account for it. 

“For the financial year 2017/18, R125m could not be accounted for because of this approach to accounting [a temporary advance payment system],” said Jafta.

“The R125m that could not be accounted for was in respect of operations run from the office of the accounting officer.”

Jafta said the temporary advance payment system used to fund agents deployed to missions was a source of money abuse at the agency. This was because most “spooks” would not return the change and would fail to submit invoices to detail how they had spent the advance during their respective missions.

So rampant was the abuse uncovered by Jafta when he took over the reins as spy boss that some spooks owed the agency R20m.

Within a month of his appointment, said Jafta, he set in motion a directive to recover money from all agents who owed the agency.

“There are colleagues who had used the money for purposes other than those the money was given for,” said Jafta.

“If you owe, in policy we can deduct from your income towards settling your debt. We were quite determined to get the money. It has worked, but there are outstanding cases. One thing we do not do is write off the debt.”

Jafta said deducting a percentage of the monthly income of agents who owed large amounts would not be enough by the time they retire. However, he said most had substantial retirement savings and if they were forced to resign, the agency would take its share to settle their debt from their retirements savings. 

Inquiry chairperson Raymond Zondo said it was shocking to hear how much impunity was tolerated at the SSA.

The deputy chief justice said he had read in an affidavit from upcoming SSA witnesses that the agency could not account for its assets valued at R9bn.

“How could a government department not be able to account for R9bn and no heads rolled?” he asked.

“Whatever the position is, this state of affairs simply cannot be allowed to continue. That money could have gone to a number of people’s pockets who were not entitled to it and imagine what it could have done for people in need.”