9 February 2021
President Ramaphosa said that it was most disturbing to hear that some people had the intent to commit fraud at a time when the country was scrambling to procure emergency PPE to protect medical professionals. He said that even though the country had grown too accustomed to hearing stories about corruption, PPE (personal protective equipment) corruption is the worst type of corruption during the pandemic. He said that one comforting factor is that these corruptions are being uncovered.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) said that it had received 189 procurement irregularities relating to PPE contracts nationally. Treasury indicated that it has spent some R30.7 billion for Covid-19 related expenditure. Of that amount, R13.3 billion is subject to the SIU investigation. This shows the scale of corruption in the procurement.
The SIU investigation found evidence of tax fraud, the use of shell companies to win multiple contracts, instances of price inflation of up to 500%, and political pressure put on managers to break procurement laws. There had been wanton disregard of the applicable law, policies and procedures.
SIU said that it had recovered R127m as of 4 February 2021. But this is only a small drop in the ocean. According to the head of the SIU, the investigations will go on for another six months until all culprits have been identified. SIU said that it would continue to pursue all officials who resigned amid investigations and will take disciplinary actions by freezing pensions and instituting civil litigation to recover the monies.
South Africa has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths on the continent with about 1.4 million cases and more than 45,000 deaths to date.
($1 = 14.9537 rand)