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London — The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) will investigate whether a kickback of more than R35m was paid for a state contract with German software firm SAP, a spokesperson for the unit said on Wednesday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the SIU investigation last week, after the antigraft agency started its own probe into a R671m deal SAP signed with the water ministry in 2016.

Asked for comment, SAP said it was reviewing all its public sector contracts in SA dating back to 2010.

SAP is one of several foreign firms to suffer reputational damage after becoming entangled in corruption scandals under former president Jacob Zuma. Ramaphosa has launched a corruption crackdown.

SIU spokesperson Nazreen Pandor said the unit had received information from a whistle-blower that a company controlled by an official had received more than R35m for facilitating the deal between the water ministry and SAP. The SIU will present the findings of its probe into SAP’s work within six months, Pandor said.

'Strong case'

An SIU investigator, who did not wish to be named, said the unit believed it had a "strong case" that procurement rules were broken in the SAP deal, based on a preliminary survey of contracts between the water ministry and SAP.

"We are already deep into planning for the investigation. If we find evidence of criminal wrongdoing, we will immediately motivate for a case to be opened," the investigator said.

"SAP continues to co-operate with both the South African and US authorities in their ongoing investigations," SAP said.

The German firm said in 2017 that the US justice department and US Securities and Exchange Commission had opened an investigation into the company under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act related to SA.

In March, SAP admitted to paying more than $9m to intermediary companies controlled by the Guptas, relating to Eskom and Transnet deals.

Reuters

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