- The NPA's Asset Forfeiture Unit has frozen 25 bank accounts belonging to different taxi associations in the Eastern Cape.
- The state, under the Unemployment Insurance Funds' special Covid-19 temporary relief scheme, paid R220m to 66 taxi associations in 2020.
- UIF discovered during auditing that among the beneficiaries were 22 dead people, 22 government employees, and an incarcerated person.
The state has launched a bid to claw back a portion of R220 million it gave to 66 Eastern Cape taxi associations as part of the Covid-19 relief scheme after discovering that some of the beneficiaries were dead people and government employees.
In a statement on Friday, the National Prosecuting Authority announced that 25 bank accounts of taxi associations with over R14 million have been frozen by the NPA's Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU).
This was in line with a preservation order granted on Friday by the Eastern Cape High Court sitting in Makhanda.
The NPA said an audit by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) uncovered that 22 government employees, 22 deceased people, and one incarcerated person were among the beneficiaries of the Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme or Covid-19 Ters.
These people did not qualify for Ters benefits, said NPA spokesperson Anelisa Ngcakani.
The associations whose bank accounts have been frozen belong to the Eastern Cape Transport Tertiary Co-Operative Limited (ECTTC), the umbrella body for the taxi associations.
ECTTC made applications for member taxi associations and received the funds.
The TERS initiative was launched by the Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi under the Unemployment Insurance Fund to assist those employees who had lost income due to Covid-19.
The funds were paid after CEO of ECTTC Dr Nokuthula Mbebe allegedly made numerous applications to the UIF for Ters payments in April 2020, said NPA.
Mbebe could not respond immediately to our questions. Her statement will be added once received.
The ECTTC made applications on behalf of its own employees as well as on behalf of the employees of the affiliate taxi co-operatives that belong to the ECTTC. It is alleged that there were a large number of irregularities with the first batch of ECTTC applications.
The second batch of applications was made on behalf of 66 taxi co-operatives who belong to the ECTTC and the total amount that was paid out amounted to just over R220 million, said Ngcakani.
When the UIF began to audit these payments, the ECTTC and its affiliate taxi co-operatives could not verify the correctness of the applications via documentary evidence or a paper trail.
Ngcakani said this was in contravention of the directives made in relation to Ters payments as well as the Memorandum of Agreement that all entities applying for Ters must sign.
The state contends that the payments, as they stand, remain as the proceeds of unlawful activities as they do not comply with the law, said Ngcakani.
The AFU investigated the allegations of wrongdoing in a joint operation with the UIF Fraud and Corruption investigators, the Financial Intelligence Centre, and the South African Police Service.
Ngcakani said the investigation is continuing and the amount to be forfeited to the state is expected to increase as the investigation unfolds.
"The success of this operation was only achieved through the smooth collaboration between the different crime fighting units, who are making every effort to recover any funds that were unlawfully received during the government's efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic," said the Regional Head of AFU, Doctor Chris Ndzengu.