Johannesburg - The department of trade and industry (DTI) has embarked on Operation Khusela to clamp down on illegal verification agents, who issue fraudulent black economic empowerment (BEE) and company registration certificates.
The operation, led by Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Mzwandile Masina, targeted illegal agents, who operate outside the DTI campus and around Sunnyside, Pretoria.
Masina said people who sell fraudulent BEE and company registration certificates are not only crippling the businesses in South Africa, but are harming the economy.
“Our economy is bleeding. People are losing tenders due to such activities, because if it is detected that the certificate if fraudulent, there is no way the state will award a tender to that business, even if it might have had the capability to deliver," said Masina.
"Innocent people are falling prey to these dealings and it is important that the state puts an end to it.”
Masina, accompanied by the acting deputy director Nomonde Mesatywa, DTI officials and the media, approached several of these illegal verification agents and were able to get bogus BEE verification certificates rated from level one to level three, which were sold for about R800 on the street.
“Certificates issued by these people are very similar to the ones issued by SA National Accreditation System accredited agencies and unsuspecting people are unable to notice the difference," said Masina.
"Our people were able to get these certificates without even producing identity documentation and financial statements to verify whether they are even owners of the companies they claimed to own.”
He said the intention was to also demonstrate to industry the importance of being properly regulated and that it was important for government to reclaim the verification space.
The operation coincided with the release of the amended Codes of Good Practice and Masina said it showed how serious government is about broad-based black economic empowerment.
Yanda Mjekula, who owns a business in the property and mining sector, said he had fallen victim to the illegal agents.
As a result of the fraudulent certificate he unknowingly acquired from a bogus agent, his business lost a tender amounting to R40m.
“I believe the DTI should do something about this situation as every day innocent people are being robbed of their monies through these schemes," he said.
"The fact that some of them operate from just outside the DTI premises makes people think they are legitimate and have links with the department.”