Fighting corruption during COVID-19

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When the President announced the national state of disaster as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, extraordinary measures had to be implemented to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Government had to ensure that the rule of law prevails, whilst combating and containing the spread of COVID19. 

Relief measures were implemented to assist those families, individuals and companies that are facing financial and social distress which might be brought by the extended period of lockdown.  Unscrupulous people have found opportunities to either abuse or misappropriate the funds and social relief.

On 23rd July 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the establishment of a collaborative and coordinating centre to strengthen the collective efforts among law enforcement agencies so as to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute COVID-related corruption.

This centre brings together nine state institutions: Financial Intelligence Centre, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, NPA, the Hawks, Crime Intelligence and the SAPS Detective Service, SARS, the SIU and SSA.

With an operational hub at the FIC, this centre is investigating allegations of corruption in areas such as the distribution of food parcels, social relief grants, the procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, and UIF special COVID-19 scheme.

President announced that at least 36 cases are currently at various stages of investigation and prosecution.

Other measures:

  • The Asset Forfeiture Unit is actively pursuing freezing orders in a number of COVID-19 related matters, which will translate into millions of Rands when these orders are realised. These matters, relate to corruption/fraud from the various relief funds, illicit cigarette and alcohol trading and contravention of lockdown regulations.
  • National Treasury issued regulations to ensure that emergency procurement of supplies and services meet the constitutional requirements of fairness, transparency, competitiveness and cost effectiveness. Regulations were put in place to prohibit unjustified price hikes and ensure the availability of essential goods.
  • UIF funds: The Department of Employment and Labour appointed an audit firm to investigate all claims submitted. There is also a fraud and audit unit that deals with that at the UIF.  All COVID19 Temporary Employment Relief Scheme (TERS) claims are under review for legitimacy.
  • Since the declaration of the national state of disaster, the Competition Commission has investigated over 800 complaints of excessive pricing. It has prosecuted or reached settlements with 28 companies, imposing penalties and fines of over R16 million.
  • Minister Tito Mboweni called on all health provincial MECs to publish the list of companies who have been awarded tenders related to Covid-19 PPEs in their provinces.
  • The Auditor-General has also adopted special measures to safeguard funds committed to the fight against COVID-19. Special audits have been undertaken to detect and prevent misuse of these funds and to identify risks in the system.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa 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. 

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