School transport fraud accused in court
17 suspects accused of financial mismanagement at Atlantis Secondary School dating back to 2007
Seventeen people, including former school governing body members, made their first appearance at the Atlantis Magistrates Court in the Western Cape on 10 March. The accused, aged between 35 and 60, face 24 charges related to defrauding Atlantis Secondary School of an estimated R2.2-million from a scholar transport grant.
Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond told GroundUp that in 2007, the department had asked the provincial Forensic Investigation Unit to look into suspected financial mismanagement at Atlantis Secondary School.
Hammond said the matter was reported to the South African Police Service, and “we are pleased that the Western Cape Commercial Crimes Investigations have acted in this regard”. She said eight of the 17 arrested were employed by the Department, five were staff at the school and some of the others were former school governing body members.
They were all arrested on Thursday, 9 March following lengthy investigations.
On Friday, 16 of the 17 accused were released on R3,000 bail each, while one person was released on a warning only.
Provincial National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said that 16 of the accused had been charged with 24 counts of fraud.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa said that the arrests followed months of “intricate investigative work into the unlawful expansion of the Western Cape Education Department’s learner transport grant”. Potelwa said Commercial Crimes Investigations detectives had executed 17 warrants of arrests in a “staggered fashion” in Paarl, Atlantis, Philadelphia and Wellington.
According to Ashley Poole, an Atlantis community activist, Atlantis Secondary School dismissed classes by noon on Friday “as staff left to support their arrested colleagues at court”.
He said, “As the saying goes: ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Obviously, there will be an investigation and lifestyle audit.”
The case was postponed to 24 April.
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