Flood of complaints around coronavirus corruption in South Africa

The Public Protector’s office says that it has received a flood of complaints related to conduct and service failures related to the coronavirus pandemic, it said in a statement on Monday (3 August).

The majority of these complaints relate to the government’s R350 Covid-19 financial relief scheme, with more than 450 people approaching the office to complain about what they deem to be unreasonable grounds for declining their applications.

In most cases, the complainants either allege that they were not provided with reasons as to why their applications were unsuccessful, or that the applications were declined on the basis that the applicants were found to be recipients of some form of income or that they qualified for UIF, which they disputed.

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said that she was also investigating alleged maladministration and irregularities on the procurement process relating to the R37 million Beitbridge Border Post Fence and the R30 million Gauteng e-Government IT tender.

Other irregularities being investigated by the Public Protector’s office include:

  • In Mpumalanga, the office is investigating alleged tender irregularities in the awarding of a Quarantine Camp tender;
  • It has been alleged that the Zithabeseni facility, which got the contract, is dilapidated and a health hazard for everyone who is under quarantine at the premises. The complainant further alleged that there has been no provision for necessities such as food and toilet papers at the facility;
  • In KwaZulu-Natal, the office is probing allegations of irregularities in the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by the provincial Department of Education. It has been alleged that the department procured the PPE at inflated prices;
  • In the Eastern Cape, the Public Protector is looking into allegations that a lodge which is being used as a quarantine site for Covid-19 is owned by a Member of the Executive Council. There is also the case of alleged irregularities in respect of the R400 million e-learning equipment (tablets) tender;
  • The Public Protector has also embarked on an own-initiative investigation into allegations of maladministration, improper conduct and the misappropriation of public funds by the Eastern Cape Department of Health in relation to the medical scooters project;
  • In addition to these, the office is dealing several other Covid-19 related service delivery complaints including the provision of water and sanitation, repatriation of expats, waste management, distribution of food parcels, access to housing, access to health, customary initiations and cultural practices and precautionary measures to mitigate employee health and safety risks.

Commenting on the increasing claims of abuse of public resources in the name of the pandemic, Mkhwebane said her office has been vocal on the matter from the very beginning.

“We have been consistent in our call on the bureaucracy to exercise prudence when it comes to spending public funds on Covid-19 related goods and services.

“We have stressed that deviation from normal procurement processes is not a declaration of an open season to pillage. We are looking at a few other matters in which we may launch own-initiative investigations,” she said.

Read: Inflated prices, stolen food parcels and spending sprees: Covid-19 looting reeks of state capture, says Ramaphosa

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Flood of complaints around coronavirus corruption in South Africa