Civil society organisations Corruption Watch and the Public Affairs Research Institute have joined the long list of voices calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take decisive action against individuals within government structures who are implicated in corruption.
The two organisations wrote an open letter addressed to Ramaphosa and National Treasury in which they raised concerns at the high levels of corruption taking place through the country’s public procurement system.
Speaking to City Press on Tuesday morning, Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said what had transpired in relation to the alleged Covid-19 coronavirus procurement corruption had “presented a fortunate opportunity ... a strong focus on the public procurement system” as a whole.
“The draft Public Procurement Bill is in its final drafting stages and because of that we are saying, don’t only think of corruption in the Covid-19-related procurement,” he said.
“The public procurement system has been corrupt for years and here is an opportunity to introduce a world-class system.”
Lewis added that a lack of action against those implicated could spell trouble for Ramaphosa.
“If, after this and the outcome of the national executive committee (NEC) meeting [on Monday], there is no decisive action taken against individuals, the president will lose every bit of credibility he has retained,” he said.
“I would expect action to be forthcoming within the next few weeks.”
The joint letter called on both Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to show leadership during this time.
“We call on you to take advantage of the current opportunities and show decisive leadership to steer a collaborative process as the draft Public Procurement Bill moves through Parliament,” read the letter.
“Both of you have echoed South Africans’ anger at the widespread corruption that has occurred under the novel coronavirus state of disaster.
“Despite the president’s characterisation that these stories of corruption have reminded South Africans of the state capture era, we cannot share in your disbelief at the pandemic-related corruption.”
The organisations added: “We urgently call on you both to demonstrate the bold leadership and political will required to ensure the redrafting process is rigorous, participatory and decisive, and that it draws input from all sectors of government.”
The draft Public Procurement Bill is intended to regulate public procurement; to prescribe a framework for procurement policy envisaged in section 217 of the Constitution.
According to section 217(1) of the Constitution: “When an organ of state in the national, provincial or local sphere of government or any other institution identified in national legislation, contracts for goods or services, it must do so in accordance with a system which is equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.”
The letter went on to say: “The majority of the corruption that has been exposed during the pandemic has been through procurement processes.”
“South Africa’s procurement system must be in accordance with section 217 of the Constitution,” the organisations said.
Responding to the letter, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Tyrone Seale, told City Press that “this is an open letter which addresses the draft procurement bill. Treasury has already introduced the draft legislation in Parliament regarding the bill.
“Civil society will have an opportunity to shape the legislation, as all legislations go through public scrutiny. Government welcomes an active civil society and they will have the opportunity to give constructive input towards ensuring that there is no corruption.”
On Monday, the ANC’s top six held a media briefing, where Ramaphosa read a statement from the party’s NEC that was held at the weekend, after the organisation endorsed a letter he had written last week.
Ramaphosa called for ANC members who had been formally charged with corruption or other serious crimes to step aside from leadership positions and other government structures until the outcome of their cases had been finalised.
On Monday it came to light that the NEC had reached a consensus that the governing party had to stand firmly against corruption and take immediate action against those implicated in grave misconduct.
Last month, Ramaphosa set up an inter-ministerial committee to investigate the alleged corruption and fraud linked to the personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement.
Headed by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, the committee includes Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, Police Minister Bheki Cele, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
This after it was reported that Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko and Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku had been embroiled in a multimillion-rand PPE tender scandal in Gauteng.
It was reported that a R125 million PPE contract was allegedly awarded to Diko’s husband Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko.
Earlier this week, City Press reported that a former MEC and the son of a Free State provincial government employee had bagged tenders to fumigate and disinfect areas as per Covid-19 regulations.
This after government released the list of companies that were awarded tenders to supply PPE in each province, in an attempt to show transparency regarding the matter.