This week’s Special Assignment looks at scam syndicates that approach unsuspecting people on the supplier databases of various government departments and pretend to be the respective government departments. The scammers then instruct these suppliers to send three quotes for jobs under a million rand to the ‘department.’ The unsuspecting supplier concedes, the quotes are accepted and the ‘department’ directs the suppliers to procure their materials from bogus companies which require an upfront payment of a minimum of 50% and in some cases, 100%.

Special Assignment goes on the trail of the syndicate and talks to some of the victims whose businesses have been severely affected by the loss of funds. Some of these businesses may never recover. In a country with an ailing economy where entrepreneurship seems a key solution to growing the economy and employment levels, these syndicates wreak havoc, not only to the individuals concerned, but to the success of South Africa’s economy. Small and medium businesses are not spared the devastating crime.

But are the authorities doing enough to clamp down on these criminals? The Hawks say there are many such syndicates which seem to be very familiar with the tendering processes of state departments. The Hawks claim to be succeeding, having opened 140 dockets so far and arrested 14 members of a syndicate operating from Sandton in Johannesburg last year. But, considering the escalating incidences of these crimes across various government agencies, should the authorities be doing more?

Eskom, some government departments and parastatals affected by this crime say they cannot be held accountable for what has happened to the victims of these scams. But what recourse do victims have and who should be held accountable for their confidential details, which they trusted government agencies with, landing in the hands of criminals?

Watch Tender Sharks produced by Lee McCabe for Special Assignment. Broadcast Sundays on SABC 3 at 20h30.