SIU 'not essential', yet has received lockdown-related corruption complaints, committee hears

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SIU head Andy Mothibi in Parliament. (Jan Gerber/News24)
SIU head Andy Mothibi in Parliament. (Jan Gerber/News24)

While the government has not classified the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) as an essential service, the corruption watchdog has already received corruption complaints related to the lockdown.

The SIU was expected to recover R10 billion over the next five years with the "optimisation of civil litigation and the special tribunal", its head, Andy Mothibi, told the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Friday.

The SIU's special tribunal has already enrolled 20 cases worth R2.1 billion, with 15 in the pipeline and expected to be enrolled in the next few days.

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The tribunal was established by President Cyril Ramaphosa in February last year, after an announcement to that effect in his State of the Nation Address and started its work in October.

It has a statutory mandate to recover public funds syphoned from the fiscus through corruption, fraud and illicit money flows.

Much to the consternation of ACDP MP Steve Swart, a staunch supporter of the SIU, Mothibi said it was not specifically classified an essential service, but it did manage to do some work during the lockdown, even though most of its staff stayed at home.

Permits

Its members were issued with permits when required to work, like when the Gauteng provincial government asked them to investigate a R30 million contract for e-services, or the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure who asked them to investigate the controversial Beitbridge fence.

Employees were issued with laptops and given remote connectivity. When they need to conduct contact interviews, it is structured to comply with physical distancing regulations.

"Our work has been going on, although not on the scale we would like to see," Mothibi said.

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He added the SIU had received reports of alleged corruption and maladministration pertaining to Covid-19-related relief funds and other irregular procurement processes during the lockdown.

"The public is still concerned that corruption is not going down."

This was because a lack of consequences due to a failure to prosecute, take disciplinary action or recover the loot, Mothibi said, adding he knew his colleagues at the National Prosecuting Authority were working hard to prosecute offenders.

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