Official pockets hundreds of thousands for wiping R1.1 million in fines

tshwane2A Tshwane Metro official who allegedly pocketed hundreds of thousands of rand by clearing drivers’ traffic fines has been fired.

The official, Kgotso Lethoba, had worked in the transgressions department at the Akasia vehicle licensing centre, which falls under the metro police, since 2006.

He was fired last month for fraud. He “transferred” the names on fines to the tune of R1.1 million.

Metro police spokesman Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said Lethoba, who had access to the Aarto/eNatis system, managed to transfer traffic fines from the original driver to a fake ID number, thereby clearing the driver’s name.

This was done for almost a year, despite its not being part of his job description, until his arrest in February.

Mahamba said the system was set up in such a way that it blocked people from renewing their vehicle licences if there were outstanding fines on the vehicle.

“When you do not pay your fines, you cannot renew your licence disc until the debt is paid in full,” Mahamba said.

When people went to pay their fines, the official offered to make the fine “go away” – at a price.

He would transfer the fines to fake identity and passport numbers and pocket the money.

The process of transferring the fine is called driver nomination, normally used when there is a dispute over who should pay a fine.

An example, said Mahamba, was when a driver could prove that someone else was driving the vehicle when the fine was incurred.

The Aarto system is document-driven and to have a traffic fine transferred, one must fill in forms and provide a copy of the person’s ID to whom the fine is transferred.

Mahamba said Lethoba had filed no documentation for the transfers.

It is unclear how much the official charged.

Mahamba said the department hoped to recover some of the money by deducting it from Lethoba’s pension fund contributions.

Lethoba was arrested on February 13 as part of the city’s efforts to clamp down on corruption. He was placed on paid suspension for three months pending an investigation.

A first offender, Lethoba was allowed to return to work after the three-month suspension until his disciplinary hearing was completed. He was dismissed on September 30.

The disciplinary hearing started in March. The were delays because the official was sick and witness were absent, said Mahamba.

When he returned to work, the official was not allowed to use the Aarto/eNatis system.

“This dismissal is consistent with the city’s zero-tolerance policy in respect of dishonesty,” said Mahamba, adding that the criminal charges of corruption against the employee were continuing in court.

Since the official’s arrest, Mahamba said, the system had been adapted so that documents had to be filed before a fine could be transferred. “This should stop corrupt activities on the system.”

Four other employees in the same department have been arrested for similar offences. The suspects worked together and used the IDs of dead people to transfer traffic fines.

The criminal case of corruption against them is ongoing and they have returned to work after their three-month suspension.

Another official from the Akasia vehicle licence department was arrested in August after she was allegedly caught writing a learner’s licence test on behalf of a candidate for a fee. A date is awaited for her disciplinary hearing.

The Pretoria News reported on Tuesday that 12 metro employees in the horticulture department were axed for stealing council fuel and selling it to taxi drivers at a reduced rate. – iol.co.za