The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) have told Parliament that investigations into alleged wrongdoing in the VBS Mutual Bank scandal are at an advanced stage.
The crime-fighting bodies briefed the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Wednesday about ongoing investigations into malfeasances at local government municipalities.
Only 18 out of 257 municipalities received a clean audit for the 2018/2019 financial year. This collapse of governance led to investigations by anti-corruption organisations into failing local government entities.
On the VBS mutual bank matter, the SIU said it is investigating why up to 15 municipalities invested in the former, Limpopo-based mutual bank when doing so was expressly forbidden by the National Treasury.
Local municipalities lost more than R1.2 billion when the bank collapsed.
SIU head Andy Mothibi said that he has seconded investigators to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) to uncover exactly how much money has been lost — and who approved the deposits.
“The Hawks are busy with an investigation specifically relating to VBS. But from our side, we are assisting Cogta from an investigation looking at irregularities. We’ll then issue a report. But it is still a work in progress,” he told MPs.
National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi said the investigation into VBS would yield results soon.
“This is one of the teams that are well resourced even in the DPCI [Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation] and we have a prosecutors team working very closely with them. There are at least three legs to this matter and one of them is at quite an advanced stage,” Batohi said.
Batohi also updated MPs on investigations into Steinhoff.
The global international holdings company lost about R282-billion in value after “accounting regularities” — allegedly at the hands of its former chief executive Markus Jooste.
Pensions funds, including that of government employees invested in the Public Investment Corporation, were decimated. But after 2 years, neither Jooste or any Steinhoff official has been brought to task.
Batohi admitted to the parliamentary committee that prosecutors have been struggling to get to grips with the case.
“When I got the first report back from prosecutors and they spoke about finding one transaction and said they wanted to move on that I told them the country would say, ‘Are you serious?’ But we could have. But it’s not reflective of the criminality at all,” said said.
But the NPA boss said there is progress with announcements on the matter in the new future. “Things have progressed well on that case. Getting the report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers was a challenge…But we got the full report and there’s been significant progress in that matter. There are a few more transactions [now] that just one.”