Cabinet 'disappointed' by Covid-19 related corruption

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  • Cabinet is disappointed by "recent reports of acts of corruption".
  • A team of five ministers must review all Covid-19 procurement.
  • This information will be made available to law enforcement agencies and the public.

Cabinet is disappointed by "recent reports of acts of corruption and theft of the much-needed resources that government has allocated to save lives and livelihoods during the Covid-19 pandemic".

This is according to a statement on Wednesday's Cabinet meeting, delivered by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola on Thursday.

"Some unscrupulous individuals and companies have been looting state resources that were meant to provide food to needy families and personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline officials, particularly healthcare workers," he said.

He said the "criminal and immoral activities" included inflating quoted prices, intercepting and redirecting food parcels meant for the poor, and fraud involving funds designated to alleviate the hardships of employees and businesses affected by the shutting down of economic activities during the national lockdown.  

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"Cabinet has called on all public institutions to uphold the highest standards of integrity and accountability, and fulfil their mandates effectively and efficiently."

He claimed Cabinet remained committed to building a "capable, ethical and developmental state" and it supported President Cyril Ramaphosa's recent call that law enforcement agencies must arrest the corrupt, whoever they were, and recover the loot.

Strengthen

He said to "speed up and strengthen" the response to Covid-19 related corruption, Ramaphosa signed a proclamation for the Special Investigating Unit to investigate any unlawful 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.

Lamola said as "part of strengthening these interventions", Cabinet approved that a team of five ministers "look into all Covid-19 related procurements made during the lockdown period and strengthen current procurement systems".

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Lamola would convene this team, comprised of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu.

However, a leaked letter from Ramaphosa stated that Police Minister Bheki Cele would also serve on this committee. 

"All government departments will be expected to submit all procurement contracts awarded during this period to this ministerial team to be published and made accessible to the public," he said.

Team

After questions from the media, Lamola clarified that the ministerial team would not replace law enforcement agencies, who must continue with its constitutionally mandated investigations.

The ministers' role would be to assist, by ensuring transparency and that the information reached the law enforcement agencies.

The Cabinet statement also said it welcomed the announcement that at least 36 corruption-related cases were at various stages of investigation and prosecution.

READ | Mix of Covid-19 and other illnesses creates a 'toxic concoction', court hears

"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," Lamola said.

"Corruption is the biggest crime that robs the poor and deprives them of basic services. As a society, we are responsible for the fight against corruption and should expose it without fear or favour. 

"Cabinet urges the public to use the different national and sectoral anti-corruption hotlines created to support efforts to expose and pursue corruption-related allegations."

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