SIU's PPE probes reveal 'flagrant disregard for laws' in an 'insatiable pursuit of self-enrichment'

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Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head Advocate Andy Mothibi.
Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head Advocate Andy Mothibi.
Tebogo Letsie, Gallo Images, City Press
  • The SIU received a total of 189 corruption allegations related to the procurement of PPE. 
  • Gauteng had the most claims of corruption reported, followed by KZN and the Eastern Cape.  
  • SIU head Andy Mothibi says investigations revealed a "flagrant and wanton disregard of the applicable law, policies and procedures".

The head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), advocate Andy Mothibi, has lamented the "insatiable pursuit of self-enrichment" by officials in all spheres of government revealed in the unit's investigations into corruption related to the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).

On Friday, Mothibi delivered a report of the SIU's finalised investigations - as well as the outcomes of some of those investigations - into allegations of corruption in the procurement of PPE by state institutions.

He revealed that Gauteng was the province with the highest number of reported corruption claims, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

There was only one claim reported in the Northern Cape. 

Mothibi said a total of 189 PPE procurement corruption allegations were reported to the SIU.

The SIU head said government departments awarded Covid-19 tenders to businesses that weren't registered on the Central Supplier Database, while certain service providers were already in the process of de-registering from the system when they were awarded the contracts.

While a national state of disaster was declared on 15 March last year, some service providers were found to have only registered on the CIPS during February and March. Mothibi said it was impossible for them to have built a "demonstrable track record" in such a short period of time.

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"The type of goods supplied were not consistent with the nature of the business for which companies were registered on the CIPS, i.e. they should not have been requested to quote for the services."

Mothibi said according to data received from the National Treasury, a total of R30.7 billion was spent by state institutions between April and November 2020, of which R13 billion was subject to SIU investigation. 

A total of 2 556 PPE contracts, to the value of over R13.3 billion, were under investigation, Mothibi said.

He said:

These contracts were awarded to 1 774 service providers.

However, investigations into 164 PPE contracts, to the value of over R3.5 billion, have been finalised.

About 1 541 contracts, to the value of R6.8 billion, were currently being investigated, while investigations into 851 were yet to commence.

"More allegations are still being received by the SIU, as such the numbers change from progress report to progress report," Mothibi said.

He said it appeared that those in positions of authority within some state institutions "believed that the declaration of a national state of disaster" meant that all procurement was automatically conducted on an "emergency" basis, and without compliance with normal prescripts regulating public sector procurement. 

He added various officials "merely rubber-stamped decisions taken by, and/or accepted and gave effect to 'unlawful' instructions from officials more senior than them, which resulted in a complete break-down of the checks and balances protection normally afforded by the principle of 'segregation of duties'". 

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"Consequently, officials working within support services processed commitment letters, purchase orders, invoices and payments without ensuring compliance with normal SCM prescripts and other control measures," he said.

He said the unit's investigation revealed evidence that required disciplinary action to be taken against certain officials involved in the irregularities.

"It is worth emphasising that the SIU investigations have revealed a flagrant and wanton disregard of the applicable law, policies and procedures," Mothibi said. 

He added: 

My observation is that the flagrant and wanton disregard is underpinned by an insatiable pursuit of self-enrichment. That cannot go unpunished. We, therefore, have to ensure that the responsible officials and private sector parties identified should be harshly punished and a clear message sent out to would-be maladministrators and the corrupt that action will be taken against them.

"It is disheartening to see state officials in all spheres of government, who have been called to serve the people of South Africa, being implicated in unlawful and illegal activities in procurement processes, that are meant to benefit the public, with corrupt intent to unduly benefit themselves and their friends and or relatives to the prejudice of the state and of the public." 

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