Cape Town – The City of Cape Town’s Health Department has warned the public against “fake health officials trying to scam business owners”.
In a statement, the City said that fake health officials – people who claim to be working for the Western Cape Provincial Health Department Head Office – attempt to force businesses to renew their Health Certification, claiming that a Certificate of Acceptability (COA) issued to a business preparing food expires every two years.
They also threaten to close premises down and demand free meals from restaurants.
Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Patricia van der Ross said that this behaviour is fraudulent and illegal.
“Criminals are finding more inventive ways to scam people out of their money and scoring free meals as in this case. Not only is this fraudulent and illegal behaviour, but many restaurants are still recovering from lockdown and can ill afford to be scammed in this manner.”
According to the City, the scam has been attempted in Kalk Bay, Muizenberg and Bergvliet.
“In all three cases, the local Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) who service the areas are well known and the business owners showed the criminals the door and reported the matter to the City,” it said.
The City also gave advice that may help business owners to avoid getting conned.
“In order to avoid being conned, business owners need to be aware that COAs issued since the updated regulations were published in 2018 remain valid unless the premises has a change in management, is sold, physical changes are made to the premises and/or to the scope of operations.
“Only the City of Cape Town Health Department has the legal mandate to issue COAs to food premises which, when issued, are printed on specifically manufactured paper with a holographic City logo that prevents it from being replicated.
“All City staff carry sturdy identification cards with the City logo that specifies their designation and department they are working for.
City warns against fake health officials trying to score free meals.
The City of Cape Town’s Health Department is warning against fake health officials trying to scam business owners.
— City of Cape Town (@CityofCT) November 14, 2022
“In their capacity as City employees no one can request any rewards, gifts, favours and/or hospitality and do not have a general right to accept any of these,” The City said.
It also reminded the public that there is no charge associated with the processing or issuing of a COA.
“City officials are not permitted to accept payment directly from clients and any applications that do require payment should only occur at a City cash office or via an electronic funds transfer into the City’s bank account – details of which are available on the City’s website.”
Councillor Van Der Ross encouraged anyone who has been conned or threatened in this manner to report it to the police and provide as much information as possible so that those responsible can be brought to book.
The City urged newly opened businesses to consult their local Environmental Health office or the City’s website to determine what exactly is needed, how to apply for it and what costs are applicable.
“If you’re approached or anyone visits your premises and demands payment or any type of reward for any type of inspection or documentation, insist on checking their credentials and verifying their story with the local Environmental Health office. Business owners can also check the legitimacy of any documentation provided by a third party with their EHPs,” added Councillor Van der Ross.
Compiled by Junaid Benjamin