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On Friday 5 February the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) released a report on its finalised investigations into ‘the procurement of, or contracting for, goods, works and services, including the construction, refurbishment, leasing, occupation and use of immovable property, during, or in respect of the National State of Disaster …’

The investigation was established in terms of proclamation R23 of 2020, and was conducted between July and November of that year.

The SIU was tasked with investigating allegations of procurement irregularities relating to personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital and quarantine sites, catering services (food parcels), ventilators, disinfecting equipment and motorised wheelchairs – in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The allegations involved ‘certain affairs of state institutions in the national, provincial and local spheres of government’. They included claims that:

  • suppliers/service providers were paid in the absence of proof of delivery;
  • duplicate payments were made to suppliers/service providers;
  • suppliers/service providers did not have valid tax clearance certificates or were otherwise not tax compliant;
  • PPE were procured at exorbitant prices; and
  • officials disqualified legitimate service providers and replaced them with entities belonging to their friends and/or family.

SIU head Andy Mothibi said at the media briefing and report release that the organisation is currently investigating RI0.3-billion out of a total spend of R30.7-billion, or 33.5% of the total spend from April to November 2020.

The SIU received 189 allegations of misconduct on the part of state institutions and individuals.

It was disheartening, he said, to see how officials in all levels of government have been implicated in unlawful and illegal procurement activities, merely to unduly benefit themselves and their friends or relatives, These are people, he added, who have been called to serve the people of South Africa.

“If corruption is not tackled by all in society, it has the potential to weaken the State’s capacity to deliver basic services like water, electricity, roads, housing, healthcare and education. I appeal to public servants and those in a position of power and responsibility to serve the people of South Africa with integrity and pride.”

Action against the corrupt

The SIU has made referrals for the institution of disciplinary action to various state entities relating to 25 of their senior and middle managers, as well as the currently off-duty presidential spokesperson, who are implicated in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA).

 The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education received the most referrals, followed closely by the Gauteng Department of Health, and then various municipalities and health and education departments. One referral involved the Free State provincial treasury. The SIU has undertaken to ‘follow up on these matters to ensure that consequence management is implemented’.

Another 38 cases of PFMA and MFMA fraud and corruption by senior staff were referred to the National Prosecuting Authority, on the grounds that the SIU has gathered sufficient evidence for criminal prosecution. In addition, two cases involving employees such as members of executive councils, executive mayors, and councillors were referred to state institutions.

The total amount of money that can potentially be recouped, said the report, is R160.6-million.

Source: SIU

In some cases, Mothibi said, officials knew of the SIU investigations and opted to resign, but not without consequences as a special request was made to freeze that official’s pensions pending the investigation.

He also noted that the SIU had unearthed 6 140 government officials who had been claiming from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, “to the value of R41 009 737, making use of 3 959 bank accounts. Of the 3 959 bank accounts identified, a total of 581 bank accounts were associated with multiple beneficiaries.”

For more details on the individual investigations, the steps taken to resolve the cases, and the recommendations, download the SIU report.