The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have successfully recovered R1.9 million in funds that were fraudulently claimed from the Agriculture Sector Education and Training Authority (AgriSeta). The payment was made by Lerato Raphael Mokoteli, a pastor from Bloemfontein, as part of a guilty plea agreement with the State. This significant development comes after an investigation into unlawful activities committed between 2016 and 2019. The recovery of these funds marks a crucial step in combating corruption and financial impropriety within the agricultural sector.
In March 2015, Lerato Raphael Mokoteli and Anthony Dywili submitted a fraudulent application to AgriSeta for R1.9 million in funding, purportedly to provide training and mentoring in food garden operations in Kimberley. The application claimed a joint venture between Business Against Crime and Dipalemo Training Strategic Services, an AgriSeta accredited service provider. However, it was later revealed that no such joint venture existed, and Dipalemo was unaware of the application.
SIU Investigation Findings:
The SIU, authorized to investigate corruption and maladministration within AgriSeta, uncovered a series of fraudulent activities surrounding the misappropriated funds. Key findings from the investigation include:
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Fraud:
Upon receiving the R1.9 million funding, Mokoteli and Dywili fabricated an MOU between Business Against Crime and the non-existent Northern Cape Empowerment Academy led by Dipalemo.
Between June and November 2016, Mokoteli submitted invoices totaling R1.3 million to Business Against Crime on behalf of Dipalemo. However, Mokoteli had no legitimate relationship with Dipalemo.
Mokoteli submitted a fraudulent report on behalf of Dipalemo to AgriSeta, claiming that training had taken place. In reality, no training was conducted by Dipalemo.
Fifty learners were falsely claimed to have been trained, and they received certificates of competency in food operation along with a stipend totaling R219,000.
Misuse of Funds:
A claim of R381,564.86 was made for the administration of training, although no legitimate training occurred.
Dywili failed to disclose to AgriSeta that R600,000 of the funding remained unspent, violating the terms of the agreement.
In July 2016, R317,000 of the funding was paid to a non-profit organization called Christian for Peace in Africa, chaired by Dywili. The organization’s bank account was opened specifically for this purpose.
Following their investigations, the SIU referred evidence of criminal offenses to the NPA in 2019. Subsequently, Lerato Raphael Mokoteli, Anthony Dywili, and Jeremia Sello Madiba, former AgriSeta CEO, were charged with various counts of fraud and money laundering.
On 26 May 2023, Mokoteli entered into a guilty plea agreement with the State, admitting to two counts of fraud and two counts of money laundering. As part of the agreement, Mokoteli agreed to repay the full amount of R1.9 million to AgriSeta. On 14 June, he was sentenced to ten years in prison for the two counts of fraud and five years for the two counts of money laundering. The court, however, suspended the sentence for a period of five years on the condition that he avoids any similar convictions during this time.
Jeremia Sello Madiba, who allegedly awarded the tender without the required decision by the AgriSeta Board of Directors, is scheduled to appear in court on a charge related to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) on 28 August 2023.
The recovery of R1.9 million from Lerato Raphael Mokoteli represents a significant victory in the fight against corruption and financial misconduct within AgriSeta. The collaborative efforts of the SIU and the NPA in uncovering this fraudulent claim and prosecuting those responsible demonstrate the commitment to upholding the rule of law in South Africa’s financial sector. This case serves as a warning to individuals and organizations engaging in fraudulent activities that they will be held accountable for their actions, ultimately protecting public funds and fostering a more transparent and trustworthy environment for financial services, credit, lending, and personal finance in the country.