Cape Town – The City of Cape Town’s health department has issued a warning about fake health officials operating in the metropole, trying to scam business owners.
It said these fake officials attempt to force businesses into renewing their health certification by claiming the Certificate of Acceptability (COA) issued to a business preparing food expires, every two years.
It said the persons claiming to be working for the Western Cape provincial health department’s head office and threatens to close down businesses and demand free meals from restaurants.
Mayoral committee member for community services and health, councillor Patricia van der Ross, condemned these actions and said many businesses could not afford to be scammed as they’re still recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
“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,” she said.
Three cases have been reported in Kalk Bay, Muizenberg and Bergvliet, where the scams were attempted.
Van der Ross said in all three cases, the local environmental health practitioners who service the areas are well acquainted with business owners, thus they were able to detect that fake officials were running a scam.
They immediately reported the incidents to the City of Cape Town.
“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 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,” Van der Ross said.
She said all City staff carry sturdy identification cards with the City’s logo which also specifies their designation and the department they work for.
As employees of the City, they may not request any rewards, gifts, favours and or hospitality and do not have the general right to accept any of these.
The City also reiterated that no charge was associated with processing or issuing of a COA.
Clients making payments should do so at a City cash office or via electronic payment.
City officials are not permitted to accept payments from clients.
“We encourage 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.
“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 local environmental health practitioners,” van der Ross said.