S’Africa probes alleged misuse Covid funds across govt’s spheres

By Oluwaseun Sonde

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the release to the public of the final report of the investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) into procurement by all spheres of government of goods, works and services associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report published on Tuesday does not include details of ongoing investigations into allegations received by the SIU after the timeline set for matters to be included in the final report.
The SIU expects these matters, which are covered by the proclamation, to be completed between March and April 2022, before the submission of a supplementary report to the President at the end of June 2022.
The release of the report follows the President’s authorisation on 23 July 2020 of an investigation by the SIU in terms of Section 4(1)(f) of the Special Investigating Unit and Special Tribunals Act, No 74 of 1996.
President Ramaphosa authorised the SIU to probe any allegations relating to the misuse of COVID-19 funds across all spheres of government.
The President gave the commitment that if the SIU found evidence that a criminal offence had been committed, it was obliged to refer such evidence to the National Prosecuting Authority.
The proclamation also empowered the SIU to institute civil proceedings for the recovery of any damages or losses incurred by the state.
The President expressed his appreciation to the SIU for the work done in the 18 months since the proclamation was issued and to whistle-blowers and other witnesses who provided information to investigators.
The SIU has investigated 5,467 contracts awarded to 3,066 service providers with a total value of R14.3 billion.
Investigations have been finalised with respect to 4,549 contracts, of which 2,803 contracts were found to be irregular. This amounts to 62% of the finalised investigations.
The President said: “The submission of the final report is an important step in our fight against corruption in the public and private sectors, and against maladministration.
“This investigation targeted individuals and institutions who believed they could exploit a moment of national vulnerability to enrich themselves and those with whom they colluded to abuse public resources.
“It is unacceptable that so many contracts associated with saving lives and protecting livelihoods were irregular, unlawful or fraudulent.
“This investigation demonstrates our determination to root out corruption and to deal with perpetrators.
”The final report details matters referred by the SIU to the National Prosecuting Authority, departments and entities in the public sector and other parties, who will finalise the process of bringing wrongdoers to book and addressing weaknesses identified by the SIU investigation.”
Since the start of the investigation, the SIU, working with other agencies, has made progress in managing consequences arising from the investigation.
Forty-five matters – constituting a combined value of R2.1 billion – have been enrolled with the Special Tribunal on Corruption, Fraud and Illicit Money Flows. The Special Tribunal has a statutory mandate to recover public funds syphoned from the fiscus through corruption, fraud and illicit money flows, and engages in civil action that is more flexible and less time-consuming than adversarial.
The SIU has made 224 referrals for disciplinary action against officials in government departments or entities.
The SIU has made 386 referrals to the National Prosecuting Authority, as well as three referrals for Executive Action.
The SIU has made 330 referrals for Administrative Action, which includes blacklisting.
The rand value of actual cash and assets to be recovered on the basis of the investigation is R551.5 million, while cash and assets recovered to date total R34.2 million.
The value of potential loss prevented by the investigation is R114.2 million, while contracts set aside amount to R170.4 million.
As regards prosecutions, the Presidency trusts the NPA will exercise its discretion diligently and expeditiously.

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