PPE corruption akin to murder, says Ramaphosa as he calls for procurement overhaul

President Cyril Ramaphosa Ramaphosa would like to see the criteria for covid-related loan guarantee schemes reviewed.
President Cyril Ramaphosa Ramaphosa would like to see the criteria for covid-related loan guarantee schemes reviewed.
Jeffrey Abrahams/Gallo Images via Getty Images
  • The government procurement system must be overhauled, the president said on Wednesday.
  • Saying SA has entered a 'new era of getting things done", President Cyril Ramaphosa said the timeline for implementing the country's economic recovery plan was just 2-3 weeks.
  • The president said government was working on "actionable plans" in its drive for economic reforms, including a mass employment scheme.

The government procurement system must be overhauled, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) on Wednesday evening.

He equated corruption scandals and over-inflating of prices relating to personal protective equipment (PPE) to "murder".

Speaking on the country's economic recovery, the president did not mince words, saying SA had entered a "new era " for implementation, with a timeline of just two to three weeks for formulating an economic recovery plan.

"It is a new era of strengthening the state and getting things done. The timeline for implementing our economic recovery plan could maybe be two to three weeks to finalise it," he said.

The president said government was working on "actionable plans" in its drive for economic reforms, including a mass employment scheme.

Ramaphosa's address comes on the back of an annualised 51% quarterly contraction in SA's GDP on Tuesday. However, the president said he expected the contraction in gross domestic product growth would be even deeper than anticipated.

"We entered the pandemic on a weak wicket, already downgraded by ratings agencies and growth-wise already getting into a recession."

Nonetheless, the president defended the decision to go into hard lockdown earlier in the year, saying countries that did not do so experienced "much bigger infections" and that many more would have died if SA had taken a different course of action.  

'Make do with what we have'

But while the president was clear on the objectives for recovery, funding was a thornier question.

"To lay out R100 billion for job protection and job creation - of course we need more. I wish we could lay out a trillion rand for that, but we have to make do with what we have. We are going to have to cut our coat according to the size of the cloth we have," he said.

He added that government would have to "cobble money together" for its recovery plan. However, he added, it would have to be a team effort.

"Fortunately, some aspects of the recovery plan will be funded through a variety of mechanisms. The private sector will play a key role and government will play a key role. We all must put shoulder to the wheel. In the end it will be 'our' plan, so all of us will have a role to play."

Ramaphosa said the loans extended to SA, for example from the International Monetary Fund, amounted to "new money we have put on the table".

"The stimulus package of R500 billion is quite a big ticket. I wanted a trillion rand, but when we looked at where the money would come from, we were constrained," he said. "You could say we were between a rock and a hard place. I would like to believe we have gone big, much bigger than we ever imagined."

The president acknowledged multiple problems with Covid-19 interventions to date, including the R200-billion loan guarantee scheme aimed at assisting businesses impacted by the pandemic. Ramaphosa fingered a lack of implementation, businesses being turned away, and a lack of state capacity as problems that needed solving.

There also had to be better coordination going forward, he said.

"As we go into the recovery process, we are now going to focus more in implementation. All the departments will be coordinating. Implementation must happen from a central point so there is proper coordination. In that way we hope to increase the capacity of the state. Then we can focus on our priorities," said Ramaphosa.


Ramaphosa would like to see the criteria for loan guarantee schemes reviewed.

"Many businesses are being turned away and this concerns me. The criteria must be aligned to the current circumstances. Lower the thresholds. We are not saying just give money away, but look at businesses in a progressive way," he said.

The president finds it "scandalous" that only between about R18 billion to 25 billion has been allocated six months after the R200 billion stimulus package was announced.

"We are not saying throw money away, but we say help more businesses."

For Ramaphosa "implementation is now the name of the game".

As for the challenges facing SA's economy, he said infrastructure investment will be crucial to recovery.

"We have identified some key projects across provinces to embark on. Some are almost ready and will create quite a number of jobs.

"We are also working on programmes aimed at creating mass employment," said Ramaphosa. "We must work on economic reforms and I think we will be able to come up with actionable plans."

"Infrastructure is the wheel that should turn our economy around. The shovels are moving, and we will see more of that happening.

"We now have an aerial view and commitment from financiers and funders. We are saying we are pivoting the recovery process on a number of key priorities, including infrastructure and mass employment," he said.

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