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COVID-19 corruption perpetrators brought to book

Individuals and companies who were involved in corruption relating to the government’s procurement of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) goods and services are being held accountable for their actions.

The Special Investigation Unit’s (SIU) final report on its probe into allegations relating to any misuse of COVID-19 funds, across all spheres of government and the private sector was recently authorised for release to the public by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The report is an important step in the fight against corruption and maladministration in the public and private sectors, he said.

In July 2020, President Ramaphosa authorised the investigation by the SIU.

At the time, he gave his commitment that if the SIU found evidence that a criminal offence had been committed, it would be obliged to refer the evidence to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The SIU was also authorised to institute civil proceedings for the recovery of any damages or losses incurred by the state.

Report findings

The SIU investigated 5 467 contracts awarded to 3 066 service providers, worth a total of R14.3 billion.

The investigation into 4 549 contracts have been finalised, and 2 803 of these were found to be irregular. This amounts to 62% of the finalised investigations.

“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,” the President said.

He added it was 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,” said President Ramaphosa.

The final report details matters that the SIU has referred to the NPA, departments and entities in the public sector and other parties.

The NPA will finalise the process of bringing wrongdoers to book and addressing weaknesses identified by the SIU investigation, the President explained.

Action taken

Since the start of the investigation, the SIU, working with other agencies, has made the following progress:

  • 45 matters, with 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 stolen through corruption, fraud and illicit money flows, and take civil action against perpetrators;
  • 224 cases have been referred for disciplinary action against officials in government departments or entities;
  • 386 cases have been referred to the NPA, and three have been referred for executive action;
  • 330 cases have been referred for administrative action, which includes blacklisting (not being able to do work for government).

According to the report, a total of R551.5 million (value of cash and assets) is to be recovered, while R34.2 million has been recovered to date.

The investigation prevented a R114.2 million loss, and set contracts aside valued at R170.4 million.

The SIU expects these matters to be completed between March and April 2022, before the submission of a supplementary report to the President at the end of June.

The report does not include details of ongoing investigations into allegations received by the SIU after the deadline set for the final report.

These include investigations into 476 service providers, linked to 964 contracts, valued at more than R961.6 million.

The outcomes of these investigations, the Presidency said, will also be provided in the June report.

The President thanked the SIU for the work done in the past 18 months, and also whistle-blowers and other witnesses who provided information to investigators.

The public can assist in the fight to end corruption at state institutions by reporting corrupt activities on the  SIU hotline at 080 003 7774.