Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola on Thursday announced that 36 corruption-related cases were “at various stages of investigation and prosecution” as part of weeding out rampant corruption related to the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Lamola was delivering the outcomes of Cabinet’s meeting held on Wednesday in place of Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, who could not attend owing to family bereavement.
The justice minister said “Cabinet welcomes the announcement that at least 36 corruption-related cases are at various stages of investigation and prosecution”.
“These cases send a strong message that government will not tolerate any acts of corruption, particularly among its officials, and that all perpetrators will be arrested and prosecuted”.
He said there was a sense of great disappointment during Cabinet’s reflection on recent reports of acts of corruption and theft of much-needed resources that government allocated to save lives and livelihoods during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“Some unscrupulous individuals and companies have been looting state resources which were meant to provide food to families in need and PPE to frontline officials, particularly healthcare workers.
“Such criminal and immoral activities included inflating quoted prices, intercepting and redirecting food parcels meant for the poor, and acts of fraud involving funds designated for alleviating the hardships of employees and businesses affected by the shutting down of economic activities during the national lockdown,” said Lamola.
He revealed that Cabinet had resorted to “calling on all public institutions to uphold the highest standards of integrity and accountability, and fulfil their mandates effectively and efficiently”.
“Cabinet remains committed to building a capable, ethical and developmental state. It supports the recent call by President Cyril Ramaphosa for law enforcement agencies to do whatever they can to arrest those involved in corruption, irrespective of who they are, and to ensure that they recover the looted funds,” he said.
Lamola said government had since established a special coordination centre with the aim to “strengthen the collective efforts among law-enforcement agencies to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute Covid-19-related corruption”.
The unit comprises of the Financial Intelligence Centre; the Independent Police Investigative Directorate; the National Prosecuting Authority; Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks); the Crime Intelligence and Detective Service; the SA Revenue Service; the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the State Security Agency.
Lamola said this unit was investigating, among other things, “allegations of corruption including the fraudulent distribution of food parcels, social relief grants, procurement of PPE and other medical supplies and the looting of the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Covid-19 Temporary Employee / Employer Relief Scheme”.
These drastic measures were taken following the ANC having come under scrutiny over the past few weeks after party members were fingered as among those who took part in the looting of Covid-19 funds and linked to PPE tender fraud.
Members of the governing party implicated in PPE tender scandals include presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko’s husband, Madzikane Thandisizwe Diko, as well as Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku and his wife Loyiso Masuku, the City of Johannesburg MMC for group corporate and shared services.
ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule and former environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s children have also been fingered as having been beneficiaries of Covid-19 tenders.
To further speed up and strengthen of the process of dealing with corruption, Ramaphosa recently signed a proclamation authorising the SIU to investigate any unlawful and/or improper conduct in the procurement of any goods, works and services during or related to the national state of disaster in any state institution.
This proclamation empowers the SIU to probe any allegations relating to the misuse of Covid-19 funds across all spheres of the state and to institute civil proceedings to recover any damages or losses incurred by the state.
“To ensure that action is taken speedily, the president will receive interim reports on investigations every six weeks. He will also get reports from the health sector’s anti-corruption forum, which is tasked to investigate irregularities and maladministration in that sector,” said Lamola.
He also indicated that Cabinet had approved the setting up of a team of ministers “to, among other responsibilities, look into all Covid-19-related procurements made during the lockdown period and strengthen current procurement systems”.
Lamola said this interministerial team would not be taking over the work of law enforcement services, but would instead furnish the agencies with necessary information that should lead to prosecution.
The team comprises of Lamola – who will be the convener – Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Police Minister Bheki Cele and Mthembu.