Thursday, 06 August 2020
Pretoria: Cabinet has reaffirmed its commitment to building a capable, ethical and developmental state as allegations of corruption related to funds associated with the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic have surfaced.
“It supports the recent call by President Cyril Ramaphosa for law-enforcement agencies to do whatever they can to arrest those involved in corruption, irrespective of who they are and ensure they recover the looted funds,” said Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola.
Addressing a media briefing on Thursday on the outcomes of a recent Cabinet meeting, the Minister said Cabinet reflected with disappointment on recent reports of acts of corruption and theft of the much-needed resources intended to save lives and livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some unscrupulous individuals and companies have been looting state resources that were meant to provide food to needy families and personal protective equipment (PPEs) to frontline officials, particularly healthcare workers.
“Such criminal and immoral activities included inflating quoted prices, intercepting and redirecting food parcels meant for the poor, and acts of fraud involving funds designated to alleviate the hardships of employees and businesses affected by the shutting down of economic activities during the national lockdown,” Lamola said.
Lamola said government has over the years introduced various interventions to fight against the scourge of corruption, which negatively affects the delivery of services to the poor and vulnerable.
“The recently established special coordination centre aims to strengthen the collective efforts among law-enforcement agencies to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute COVID-related corruption.
“It comprises the Financial Intelligence Centre; Independent Police Investigative Directorate; National Prosecuting Authority; South African Police Service’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks), Crime Intelligence and Detective Service; South African Revenue Service; Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the State Security Agency,” the Minister said.
Allegations of corruption being investigated include the fraudulent distribution of food parcels, social relief grants, procurement of PPEs and other medical supplies, and the looting of the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s COVID-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme.
“To speed up and strengthen the process of dealing with corruption, the President recently signed a proclamation authorizing the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate any unlawful or improper conduct in the procurement of any goods, works and services during or related to the national state of disaster in any state institution,” the Minister said.
The SIU is empowered to probe any allegations relating to the misuse of COVID-19 funds across all spheres of the State and institute civil proceedings to recover any damages or losses incurred by the State.
“To ensure that action is taken speedily, the President will receive interim reports on investigations every six weeks. He will also get reports from the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum that is tasked to investigate irregularities and maladministration in the health sector,” the Minister said.
Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture
Cabinet has welcomed the amendments to the regulations of the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector, including Organs of State.
“The amended regulations will now allow for the sharing of information by the commission with the other law-enforcement agencies. This will help to expedite the investigation and prosecution of corruption-related cases,” Lamola said.
Team to probe COVID-19 corruption
As part of interventions to deal with corruption, Cabinet has approved a team of Ministers to, amongst others, look into all COVID-19-related procurements made during the lockdown period and strengthen the current procurement systems.
The team comprises of Lamola as the Convenor; Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni, Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as well as Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu.
All government departments will be expected to submit all procurement contracts awarded during this period to this ministerial team. They will be published and made accessible to the public.
Cabinet also welcomed the announcement of 36 corruption-related cases being at various stages of investigation and prosecution.
“These cases send a strong message that government will not tolerate any acts of corruption, particularly among its officials, and that all perpetrators will be arrested and prosecuted.
“Corruption is the biggest crime that robs the poor and deprives them of basic services. As a society, we are responsible for the fight against corruption and should expose it without fear or favour,” the Minister said.
Cabinet has urged the public to use the different national and sectoral anti-corruption hotlines to expose and pursue corruption-related allegations.