More arrests are expected following the nabbing of an official from the City of Joburg’s Ombudsman office this week for alleged bribery involving an inflated water and electricity bill.
The arrest has elicited shock from residents, who say the office was specifically established for, among others, assisting people with excessive billing complaints.
Now officials from the office supposedly protecting them, is involved with the fraud and bribery, said a resident who did not want to be named.
“This was just one person, imagine how many others have paid bribes just to get these bills resolved after battling to do so with the revenue offices,” he said.
The city’s Office of the Ombudsman, however, has distanced itself “with great concern” after the arrest.
The 43-year-old official was caught for soliciting a bribe of R37000 from a Joburg Property Company (JPC) employee during a sting operation.
The city’s group forensic and investigation service department (GFIS) received a complaint from an employee of the JPC who recently received a water and lights bill of about R400000.
“It is alleged that the complainant approached the Office of the Ombudsman to assist him with his case of the excessive bill that he received. He was allegedly assisted by the suspect who first requested R10000. The official was paid this amount and the bill was reduced to R225000.
The suspect then demanded a further R27000 after he reduced the bill by a further R100000.
After the sting operation was set up by GFIS, working together with the Hawks, the suspect was arrested. Preliminary investigations have established the suspect was not working alone. More arrests are imminent, said Lucky Sindane, GFIS director of strategic stakeholder management.
“Corruption has no place in the city. We will work tirelessly, and in collaboration with institutions such as the Hawks and SAPS to ensure that corruption is eradicated and that residents of Joburg receive the quality services they deserve.”
The city would also like to encourage people to report any fraud and corruption activities through the 24-hour tip-off hotline 0800002587 or visit the GFIS offices at 48 Ameshoff Street in Braamfontein.
The Office of the Ombudsman said it was “shocked” by the alleged conduct of the employee. It would not, and has never tolerated, such unethical and criminal conduct by any of its employees.
“We welcome the arrest. We do not take the allegations lightly and will therefore co-operate and work with the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the law takes its cause,” said Vukile Madlala, executive manager of communications and media.
Having received a report from the GFIS, the Office of the Ombudsman was in the process of taking disciplinary action against the employee concerned while the criminal case is under way.
“The office will continue to ensure that all complaints relating to maladministration against the city of Joburg, municipal entities, including its officials, are investigated and dealt with decisively.
“We remain committed to our values of fairness, accessibility, accountability, integrity, being service-oriented and transparency,” added Madlala.