SIU head Andy Mothibi. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEON SADIKI
SIU head Andy Mothibi. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEON SADIKI

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) says it has received allegations of corruption and maladministration regarding relief funds related to Covid-19, as well as other procurement irregularities during the lockdown.

The allegations relate to the distribution of food parcels and non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act, which governs procurement processes.

SIU head Andy Mothibi told MPs on Friday that, because of the number of Covid-19 cases received, including large procurement cases, the agency will seek a national proclamation from President Cyril Ramaphosa to facilitate its investigations. The unit only deals with cases proclaimed by the president.

In the meantime, he said the SIU is working with the anti-corruption task-team that represents various law enforcement agencies to deal with Covid-19 cases. A joint structure consisting of the SIU, the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has been set up to expedite handling the cases

The joint structure refers the cases to the relevant institution — for example, criminal matters are referred to the Hawks and the NPA, while irregular procurement contracts and other civil matters are referred to the SIU and ultimately the Special Tribunal.

Mothibi noted that there are 20 matters to the value of about R2bn enrolled with the tribunal with 15 more cases finalised and which will be enrolled in the next few days.

He told the justice and correctional services committee that the aim is to respond quickly and without delay to these matters. All allegations relating to Covid-19 corruption can be reported anonymously to the SIU.

He believed the economic contraction arising from Covid-19 will have huge implications in terms of escalating maladministration and corruption.

Mothibi said he is satisfied with the progress made with the Special Tribunal, which was established by the president in February last year to fast-track the recovery of public funds siphoned from the fiscus through corruption, fraud and illicit money flows.

Manned by judges seconded from the high courts, the tribunal differs from ordinary civil proceedings in that it is inquisitorial rather than adversarial in nature. It is characterised by extensive pre-trial investigations and adjudicates on matters referred to it by the SIU.

Mothibi said the unit is also dealing with 86 other proclamations made by the president. Last year, it conducted about 1,300 investigations under various proclamations and anticipates collecting about R10bn over the next five years.

One of the risks facing the SIU, which Mothibi highlighted, is the inability to financially sustain itself due to shortcomings in its funding model. Contributing to these difficulties is non-payment by the state for services rendered. By end-March the government owed the agency R418m, with local government being a big contributor.

The SIU wants a change to its funding model and discussions in this regard are underway with Treasury.

In 2020/2021 the SIU will receive R452m as a grant from the government and will raise R331m by charging for its services.

Mothibi stressed the need for consequence management in government if corruption is to be dealt with. This means holding accountable those responsible. Another risk raised by Mothibi is the inability of the SIU to timeously commence investigations due to the protracted approval process for proclamations.

Correction: May 15 2020 
An earlier version of this article had the incorrect photo of SIU head Andy Mothibi; we apologise for the errror.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za