Covid-19 has been a devastating pandemic in many ways for South Africa, including increased claims of government corruption – but there are positives that the country can take out of the experience, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Rampahosa was answering questions during a parliamentary Q&A session on Thursday (27 August), with the focus being on the recent publication of tender documents related to the pandemic.
On Wednesday (26 August), the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO) published a full list of all companies who have been awarded contracts by the government for the supply of goods and services relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The lists include Covid-19 procurement information from all provinces, national departments and over 70 public entities.
“Below this dark cloud, we can also see a silver lining of some sorts and from now on we now need to reform our procurement system so that those who seek to defraud, corrupt, and profiteer unfairly from what government purchases in terms of good services no longer have space.
“In the end, when the government spends money it is spending the people’s money. And the people have an entitlement to know what they have spent their money on.”
Rampahosa said that the Covid-19 pandemic should lead to the opening up of tender processes. He said that the government would also look to new technologies – including artificial intelligence and blockchains – to help protect people’s money
“So Covid-19, bad as it is at this stage, will have yielded this great benefit where we have drawn a line in the sand where corruption will no longer be tolerated in our country when it comes to procurement and other processes.”
Ramaphosa said that the allegations of corruption in the procurement of goods and services for the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has caused outrage among South Africans and among members of the executive.
He said that South Africans were justifiably angry about the corruption.
“It is disgraceful that at this time of national crisis, there are companies and individuals who seek to criminally benefit from our efforts to protect people’s health and save lives.
“As government, we have taken several measures not only to detect, investigate and prosecute such crimes, but also to strengthen measures to prevent corrupt activities.
“To achieve this purpose I have authorised the Special Investigating Unit to probe any allegations relating to the misuse of Covid-19 funds across all spheres of the state.”
Ramaphosa said that the ‘Titanic’ is not sinking but that government was instead strengthening its resolve to tackle corruption. He said that more than 11 agencies were all tackling issues of corruption – from tax to governance,.
He added that it was not the task of the president to arrest people, as this was not democratic, but it was instead the role of strong institutions to tackle these issues.