The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is investigating dozens of companies and individuals who are believed to have benefited from dodgy Covid-19 tenders, the Sunday Times reports.
Deals believed to be worth more than R2.2 billion involving emergency purchases of personal protective equipment (PPE) are at the centre of the investigation, with 90 companies that received contracts from the Gauteng health department under the spotlight.
The group is also investigating R30 million in alleged irregular contracts in KwaZulu-Natal. The SIU will then move to the Eastern Cape, where it will probe a R4.8 million contract awarded by the OR Tambo municipality for a Covid awareness campaign.
“The whole thing seems so unscrupulous and filthy, one doubts it will ever meet the National Treasury-issued regulations pertaining to emergency procurement of supplies and services,” said Sandile Zungu, president of the Black Business Council.
“Thieves and parasitic covidpreneurs who masquerade as black businesses must be handcuffed and shackled to their prison cells. They rob authentic, hard-working and ethical black businesses of an opportunity to do legitimate business with the state.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to fight corruption in the country and opportunists who use the coronavirus pandemic for their own gain.
In a national address on Thursday (23 July), Ramaphosa said there had been allegations of:
- Fraudulent UIF claims;
- Overpricing of goods and services;
- Violation of emergency procurement regulations;
- Collusion between officials and service providers;
- Abuse of food parcel distribution;
- The creation of fake non-profit organisations to access relief funding.
“We are determined that every instance of alleged corruption must be thoroughly investigated, that those responsible for wrongdoing should be prosecuted and that all monies stolen or overpriced are recovered.
“In order to speed up and strengthen the process of dealing with corruption, I have signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit – 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.”
Ramaphosa said this proclamation empowers 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. It is also empowered to institute civil proceedings for the recovery of any damages or losses incurred by the state.
To ensure that action is taken speedily, Ramaphosa said he will receive interim reports on investigations every six weeks.