SIU probes R5bn worth of contracts related to Covid-19
Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa calls for 'absolute speed and urgency' in investigations
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is probing R5bn worth of contracts in its investigation into corruption relating to the measures taken by the state to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
Aside from this, more allegations are continuing to flow to the SIU, its head Andy Mothibi said in parliament on Wednesday.
Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) was briefed by Mothibi on the investigations after President Cyril Ramaphosa issued a proclamation in July to ensure the SIU could probe the misuse of Covid-19 funds.
The SIU, which does not prosecute, was working closely with other law enforcement agencies in dealing with the Covid-19 corruption.
Public outrage grew over the past few weeks after allegations regarding corruption especially in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) was first revealed. Possible tender irregularities in the procurement of PPE in Gauteng have already seen both the president’s spokesperson Khusela Diko and the province’s health MEC Bandile Masuku take a leave of absence pending the outcome of the SIU investigations.
The SIU’s Pranesh Maharaj told the committee the allegations, which prompted the SIU to ask the president for a proclamation to investigate, came from the director-general in Gauteng premier David Makhura’s office, along with known and anonymous whistle-blowers.
The SIU said the quantified amount of money involved in the probe thus far was just more than R5bn, with the bulk of that amount respectively coming from contracts in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. The R5bn excludes the value of contracts which have still not been quantified by the SIU.
In Gauteng it is R2.2bn worth of contracts, while the total in the Eastern Cape amounts to just below R2bn.
In Gauteng all of the contracts under investigation were with the provincial department of health, while the contracts in the Eastern Cape involved more departments.
The SIU said the Gauteng probe related to 90 companies used to procure PPE, 30 companies used to procure medical equipment, 32 companies for services related to catering, flights, accommodation, counselling sessions of staff, legal costs, car hire, printing, computers and patient care, and five companies for infrastructure projects which included the two warehouses to house PPE and one Covid-19 quarantine site.
Mothibi told the committee that the SIU would report to Ramaphosa within six weeks of the proclamation to provide an update.
He said he wanted the investigations to be done speedily, and that teams across the country were sufficiently resourced and hard at work. He said they wanted to see action being taken when investigations are concluded, which included civil cases to claw back the money and criminal prosecutions, as well as for disciplinary proceedings.
He assured MPs that resources being directed to the Covid-19 investigations did not materially affect other critical probes being done by the SIU.
Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the committee would call the presidency to appear before it to brief it on the reports given to Ramaphosa by the SIU.
“We need to move with absolute speed and urgency,” Hlengwa said, emphasising that the next meeting with the SIU should be about results as the committee wanted to see concrete and tangible outcomes to the investigations.
“If we don't move with speed then we are complicit in corruption,” Hlengwa said.
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