Thursday, 06 August 2020

Pretoria: National Treasury Director-General Dondo Mogajane says an instruction will be issued to government departments across all spheres to halt the emergency procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) as the State tightens the lid against corruption.

At a joint virtual meeting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces Finance Committees on Wednesday, Mogajane said the demand and supply of PPE had somewhat eased compared to the early stages of the outbreak.

“[PPE is] easily available and we have boosted local production… The local production of face shields and masks… is now in place after a few months of challenges in terms of how companies in South Africa could [participate in production],” said Mogajane.

The instruction to halt the emergency procurement of PPE comes as calls mount for all allegations of corruption, in relation to COVID-19 relief funds, be investigated and those responsible to be brought to book.

The allegations have over the past two weeks been a point of concern among many citizens, with some expressing their outrage on social media.

In his weekly newsletter on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said corruption during a national disaster is a particularly heinous type of crime, and perpetrators are going to be dealt with decisively and harshly.

Mogajane said with the halting of emergency procurement, the instruction will request all departments to revert to procurement processes that are compliant with all existing instructions for procurement.

National Treasury, Mogajane said, will lock the absolute price for all PPE and listed protective clothing procurement. Permission will have to be sought for any amount above the absolute price.

Institutions will be asked to provide National Treasury with the names of all PPE and protective clothing appointed service providers for publishing on the Treasury website.

Bringing culprits to book

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said the instruction previously issued by National Treasury in relation to all COVID-19 procurement has not been adhered to.

While it is important for accounting officers to adhere to the Treasury instruction, Mboweni said it was equally important for executive authorities – Ministers, MECs and Mayors – to hold accounting officers accountable.

He said it is now up to law enforcement agencies to follow up on companies that were awarded tenders in order to find any wrongdoing and to bring the culprits to book.

“One of the key issues is whether some of the companies, which were awarded these contracts, were properly registered with the company registration office. Were they registered with SARS? Did they go through a competitive process?

“The administrative investigation has to show us that indeed this was done and that the companies competed for these contracts, and these particular companies won the contracts on the basis of merit scores. They have to demonstrate that to us.

“In the meantime, I am having a conversation again [on Thursday] with the MECs of Finance to try to find out whether all these processes were followed or not, and if they were not followed, why they were not followed. Who broke the rules?

“In my conversation with the MECs of Finance, we are going to discuss and insist on the fact that all these contracts must be published for the public to see. In publishing who won which contract, we will also want to know who were the competitors, and on which basis did the competitors lose.

“We would be interested to know about the age of the companies. Were they formed [recently] or [have they been around for long]?”

Towards the end of July, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit to probe, in any State institution, allegations of corruption related to the COVID-19 national State of Disaster.