Ramaphosa attempts to draw a line in the sand over Covid-19-related corruption

President Cyril Ramaphosa during his second virtual imbizo on Covid-19.
President Cyril Ramaphosa during his second virtual imbizo on Covid-19.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised an SIU investigation into Covid-19-related corruption.
  • Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Thursday evening. 
  • He said a special task team will be in charge of the investigations and will report to him every six weeks.

While President Cyril Ramaphosa appeared to have conceded to calls for the shutting of schools for a month amid the Covid-19 peak, he attempted to draw a line in the sand about the now widespread looting of public funds. 

In his address to the nation on Thursday evening, Ramaphosa announced he had signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate Covid-19-related corruption.

The president added 36 cases related to Covid-19 corruption were being investigated and prosecuted. 

"We are determined that every instance of alleged corruption must be thoroughly investigated, that those responsible for wrongdoing should be prosecuted and that all monies stolen or overpriced are recovered," he said in his address. 

This after Ramaphosa announced schools would be closed for four more weeks until the Covid-19 peak is reached. 

"All the funds that we have committed must reach their intended recipients and must be put to their proper use. We will take steps to recover all funds that have been stolen or where goods have been overpriced. The success of our fight against corruption depends on the involvement of all citizens and all parts of society." 

He said the SIU would 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.

"This empowers the SIU to probe any allegations relating to the misuse of Covid-19 funds across all spheres of the state. If the SIU finds evidence that a criminal offence has been committed, it is obliged to refer such evidence to the prosecuting authority.

"It is also empowered to institute civil proceedings for the recovery of any damages or losses incurred by the state. To ensure that action is taken speedily, I will be getting interim reports on investigations every six weeks," he said.

This after civil society organisation Corruption Watch released a report on Wednesday into the state of corruption in South Africa's healthcare sector, saying corruption was on the rise.

Ramaphosa's R500 billion Covid-19 social and economic plan has been plagued by corruption, with the DA and Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane calling on him to ask the SIU to investigate PPE tenders. 

Stretched to limit

In his address, Ramaphosa said the pandemic was stretching the government's capabilities and resources to their limit.

He added he had established a collaborative and co-ordinating centre to strengthen the collective efforts among law enforcement agencies to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute Covid-19-related corruption.

The centre will include institutions such as the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), Independent Police Investigative Directorate, National Prosecuting Authority, Hawks, Crime Intelligence, the police's detective service, South African Revenue Service, SIU and State Security Agency.

"With an operational hub at the FIC, this centre is investigating allegations of corruption in areas such as the distribution of food parcels, social relief grants, the procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies as well as the UIF special Covid-19 scheme. At least 36 cases are currently at various stages of investigation and prosecution," Ramaphosa said. 

He added he was determined there should be no theft, wastage and mismanagement of public funds, saying the consequences for those who break the law or bypass regulations would be severe.

"The people of South Africa require nothing less than full accountability from those who have been elected and appointed to serve them.

"We commend those provincial governments and municipalities that have already started taking disciplinary action against officials accused of improper conduct and, where appropriate, have reported them to the law enforcement agencies," Ramaphosa said.

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