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SIU investigates duplicate payments to law firms

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The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) says it is investigating 102 law firms, including Sheriffs, which received approximately R340 million in duplicate payments from the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

The firms received duplicate payments from RAF as compensation to persons injured because of motor vehicle accidents on South African roads.

Instead of returning the duplicate payments to RAF, legal practitioners opted to either keep the money in their trust accounts or use it to their personal benefit.

Presenting its preliminary findings to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) on Wednesday, the SIU said it has managed to recover R18 million through an acknowledgement of debt process, following the signing of Proclamation R44 of 2021 by President Cyril Ramaphosa authorising the SIU to investigate serious allegations of corruption and maladministration in the affairs of RAF.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the unit has approached several legal practitioners with the evidence and they have opted to cooperate with the SIU investigation in defrayal of their indebtedness by the signing of acknowledgments of debt (AOD).

“To date, the SIU has signed the AODs to the value of R68 000 000. The signing of AODs does not absolve the legal practitioners from any civil litigation that the SIU may institute or refer for criminal prosecution or being reported to a regulatory body, in this case, the Legal Practice Counsel.

“So far, the SIU has made one referral to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for evidence pointing to criminal conduct. There are 10 possible NPA referrals identified and five possible referrals to the Legal Practice Counsel,” Kganyago said.

Kganyago added that the SIU is investigating 10 contracts for possible irregularities, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and some of the contracts were flagged by the Auditor General.

“Four contracts to the value of approximately R837 million have been identified for review and possible cancellation.”

The SIU is in terms of Proclamation R44 of 2021 authorised to investigate allegations of corruption and maladministration in the affairs of RAF, and to recover any financial losses suffered by the State.

The investigation has five focus areas, including:

– duplicate claim payments made to Attorneys, Claimants and Sheriffs and change of mandates;

– procurement and tender irregularities, especially fruitless and wasteful expenditure;

– RAF payment claims from service providers who have rendered services to the victims of the motor vehicle accident;

– possible inflated invoices submitted by the service providers, either by way of contract or the act. The investigation also focuses on possible collusion between the RAF employee and the services providers, and the bill of cost submitted by the attorneys; and

– fraudulent claims – both foreign and national – and home modifications across the country as well as rejected claims.

The SIU is empowered to institute civil action in the High Court or a Special Tribunal in its name, to correct any wrongdoing uncovered during both investigations caused by acts of corruption, fraud, or maladministration.

In line with the Special Investigating Units and Special Tribunals Act 74 of 1996, the SIU will refer any evidence pointing to criminal conduct it uncovers to the NPA for further action. – SAnews

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