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30 November 2012 at 07:35 - Posted by Midrand

Sophisticated Tender Scam Exposed - SANEWS


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A KwaZulu-Natal woman who was allegedly swindled out of goods worth R1m by scammers claiming to be government officials, could lose her house which was used as security to obtain a bank loan.

Monica Padayachee, a small businesswoman from Durban, had responded to a Department of Correctional Services advertisement calling on prospective suppliers and vendors to submit their business details to be listed on their supplier database.


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“I submitted all the documentation. Within days I received a call from a Ronald Mabaso, who said he was from the department’s procurement division,” she said.

Padayachee subsequently received a faxed invitation to bid to supply 500 Samsung Galaxy P5100 tablets.

“We submitted our bid and waited. About a week later, we received a letter informing us that our bid had been successful.”

Padayachee, who is familiar with government procurement processes, said: “We checked the order number and verified with the department that this deal was above board.”

The documentation she received was purportedly sent from the department’s Pretoria fax line. “There were stamps and everything seemed legitimate”.

Padayachee took a R1m loan against her house to help finance the purchase of the tablets. The contract, according to documents seen by The New Age, was worth R5.5m.

Earlier this month, Padayachee and her husband went from Durban to Pretoria to deliver the tablets.

“When we arrived at the Correctional Services offices. A man who identified himself as Ronald Mabaso came out of the office and told us that the receiving department had closed about 10 minutes before our arrival.

“He told us to take the goods to their warehouse.” The couple was directed to a building near Bosman Street but that too was closed. The couple left the goods with Mabaso who gave them a signed receipt.

Padayachee later became suspicious because she was unable to reach Mabaso about her payment.

“She then contacted the department on another number and was told by a woman in the receiving section that they had no employee named Ronald Mabaso. The woman said they had received similar complaints from other service providers.”

Padayachee then laid charges with the police.

Sources within the Gauteng Organised crime unit said there were more than 50 cases of government suppliers who had allegedly been defrauded.

“This is a very sophisticated scam. We have cases where the scammers claimed they were employees of Public Works, Health, the police, Water Affairs and several provincial departments,” a source said.

Correctional Services spokesperson, Koos Gerber, said Padayachee appeared to be a victim of a criminal syndicate whose members pose as government officials.

“We have heard of similar accounts by prospective service providers who were conned in a similar fashion,” he said.

Gerber said the department does not employ a Ronald Mabaso and the contact details on her documents were false.

“Procurement of items for the amount mentioned would in any event have necessitated a tender process that takes months to be finalised,” he said. “The details on our supplier database are stored electronically and only procurement staff can access the system by means of a pin code.”

Gerber said prospective suppliers must make 100% sure that they are not dealing with conmen. “The authenticity of a procurement transaction can be verified by phoning the department’s procurement division whose contact details appear on the official website, www.dcs.gov.za.”

Hawks spokesperson, Capt Paul Ramaloko, said they were investigating a case of fraud.  

 

fraud facts

» The fraudsters contact targeted companies and pretend to be government officials from a procurement unit.

» Details of targeted companies are believed to be taken from the official government databases of companies eligible to do business with state departments.

» When the goods are delivered, a member of the syndicate emerges from the relevant department building and requests that because of a lack of parking, the goods must be delivered outside.

» When the company invoices the relevant department, or follows up on payment, they discover that they have been conned.

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