Attendees charged r8,000 for event with hoax speakers database instance

News24 was contacted by two speakers, due to attend the biennial Water Loss Conference and Exhibition 2018 in Cape Town from May 6 to 9. The event is one of the world’s largest water-loss conferences and is expected to attract more than 500 participants from more than 50 countries.

But Tim Waldron and Malcolm Farley, both renowned experts in water-loss management, expressed surprise when colleagues alerted them to another workshop they would apparently speak at in Johannesburg on May 24 and 25. This one was called the Non-Revenue Water and Leak Detection Masterclass.

To add to their confusion, two separate registration forms seen by News24 promote the event on the same day with the same speaker, but at two different venues. Representatives of both venues deny that they have any bookings confirmed for the dates indicated on the registration forms.

Matt Braune, a stormwater and rainwater drainage expert, was named as a speaker for Meanwood’s "Stormwater and Drainage Systems Masterclass" in 2015. Braune denied speaking at any of the five workshops Meanwood advertised, and was not even aware that his name was being used.

News24 has seen correspondence in which Meanwood confirms it has already lined up at least 25 delegates for the "Water Wastage" workshop. This is the same event in which at least four of the main speakers are either unaware of the event, or deny being involved at all.

A search on Hello Peter uncovered several complaints against CASI Training, accusing it of being a scam, and reneging on its training commitments after it received money. Comments that read "SCAM!!!! CASI IS SCHEDULIING DUBIOUS TRAINING WORKSHOPS BEWARE [sic]" and "Changing the training date and not paying back", litter reviews from as far back as September 2015.

Website ownership records also confirmed that CASI Training and Meanwood share a landline number, and CIPC records show that they share a business address. Website ownership records also confirmed that a third company, Pacecomm, was registered to Meanwood.

Sikota, speaking on behalf of both Meanwood and CASI Training, relied heavily on a clause contained in the registration forms that prohibits the refund of registration fees. Once the R8,000 registration fee has been paid, not even several postponements are enough to trigger a refund.

Meanwood told News24 late on Wednesday evening that the attendees have now been informed that the event has been postponed. Their website was also updated after News24 sent questions to Meanwood. The Water Leak Detection conference is now being advertised for an unspecified date. It remains unclear when the 25 delegates, who have already registered and paid, will be able to attend the conference.

Dube, a consultant working for Meanwood, CASI Training and Pacecomm, is listed as the research director on several of the brochures and registration forms circulated. Many of the speakers that News24 spoke to also confirmed that he was their contact person at Meanwood.

Despite several follow-ups and undertakings provided by the management of Meanwood, Dube failed to respond to detailed questions posed to him. These included whether he plagiarised the course content and whether he confirmed speakers‘ attendance before taking money from prospective registrants.