President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation, July 23 2020. Picture: GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation, July 23 2020. Picture: GCIS

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) will now be able to probe any allegations relating to the misuse of Covid-19 relief funds, President Cyril Ramaphosa says.

On Thursday the president  signed a proclamation authorising the SIU to “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.”

The proclamation comes more than two months after SIU head Andy Mothibi told MPs in May that because of the number of Covid-19-related cases they had received, which included large procurement cases, the SIU would seek a national proclamation to facilitate its investigations.

The unit only deals with cases proclaimed by the president.

SA has been under lockdown since March 2020, imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The lockdown has caused economic devastation, resulting in the state putting together a R500bn relief package.

While the pandemic required a rapid response, Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation on Thursday evening that they were increasingly hearing of allegations about, among others, violation of emergency procurement regulations, collusion between officials and service providers, abuse of food parcel distribution and the creation of fake non-profit organisations to access relief funding.

He said the proclamation empowered 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,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the SIU was also empowered to institute civil proceedings for the recovery of 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,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the fight against the coronavirus pandemic was stretching SA's capabilities and resources to its limit.

“We are therefore determined that there should be no theft, no wastage and no mismanagement of public funds. The consequences for those who break the law or bypass regulations will be severe,” Ramaphosa said.

mailovichc@businesslive.co.za

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