Covid-19 corruption: Mboweni confirms Treasury note that allowed loophole for looting is withdrawn

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.
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  • Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced the withdrawal of the Treasury note which suspended procurement safeguards.
  • A day before, President Cyril Ramaphosa accepted responsibility for the relaxation of the safeguards.
  • DA MP Tim Brauteseth said the note allowed the "corruption hyenas to move in and eat at will".

A day after President Cyril Ramaphosa accepted responsibility for the Treasury note which relaxed procurement safeguards and opened the floodgates for the looting of Covid-19 funds, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced that this note had now been withdrawn.

Mboweni, delivering his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement to the National Assembly on Wednesday, said the Covid-19 pandemic had "given rise to shameful and exploitative acts of corruption".              

"We must continue to defeat the corrupt and plug the loopholes," he said.     

READ | Ramaphosa dismisses rumours of a return to lockdown Level 3

"The National Treasury has withdrawn the emergency procurement instruction note and required all state bodies to revert to normal procurement processes. Procurement is now slowed down due to a few scoundrels who put themselves ahead of the country, and we must all suffer."

In March, Treasury issued a notice suspending provisions of the Public Financial Management Act (PFMA) and Municipal Financial Management Act (MFMA), allowing for the speedy procure of PPE and other items related to the pandemic.

When Ramaphosa answered questions in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Tuesday, he was quizzed about Covid-19 related corruption.

Disastrous

DA MP Tim Brauteseth said: "The ground was laid for this entire situation, Mr President, by the disastrous Treasury Note 8. That note from the Treasury suspended the conditions of the PFMA and literally flung open the barn door for the corruption hyenas to move in and eat at will." 

READ | Mini budget 2020 in a nutshell: Mboweni plans to navigate the Covid-19 storm

"This happened on your watch, Mr President. Can you take South Africans into your confidence and acknowledge that a mistake was made?"

Ramaphosa said the decision was made as the country was dealing with the "worst health disaster our country has seen since 1918".  

It was an emergency situation, and Cabinet debated long and hard on which road to follow, before deciding on the Disaster Management Act.

"This inspired Treasury to say, as we are dealing with this disaster, we do need to act quickly, we do need to procure PPE for health workers, because we couldn't expose our health workers to infection."

He said PPE could only be procured fast enough through Treasury suspending regulations. They were also in competition with other countries.

Decision

"It was a decision that had to be taken, and it was a leadership decision," Ramaphosa said.

"If anybody has to be blamed, I should be blamed. Because as president of the republic, I had to say this is where we should go because we were facing a very dangerous situation."

Ramaphosa likened it to a war situation.

"And yes, decisions had to be taken, and with those decisions, obviously, comes risks."

He said one of the risks was that "people with evil and criminal intent" would see gaps.

"With hindsight now, we now know we need to be better prepared; better prepared for any pandemic that can come or any similar calamity. So in this regard, I must say we acted as best as we could have. And now we are involved in following up those who were involved in malfeasance."

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