The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is investigating allegations that unscrupulous officials and businesses benefited from billions meant to fight COVID-19.
According to a report by the Sunday Times, the SIU is investigating 90 companies that received contracts from the Gauteng health department. It is also investigating R30 million worth of allegedly irregular contracts in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as others in the Eastern Cape.
The deals are believed to be worth more than R2.2bn, involving emergency purchases of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Black Business Council president Sandile Zungu told the Sunday Times he was saddened to see that his lobbying for black businesses to benefit from the process had been hijacked.
“We now have to put it on record that these are not black businesses, but thieves,” said Zungu.
He called the beneficiaries of these corrupt contracts “thieves and parasitic covidpreneurs” who masquerade as black businesses and 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,” he explained.
“South Africa is becoming a nation of thieves, with the most unscrupulous enablers in official positions all too ready to feast on the relief meant for the most vulnerable in our society.”
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced special measures to fight corruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” said Ramaphosa.
In order to speed up and strengthen the process of dealing with corruption, Ramaphosa disclosed that he has 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.
This 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, I will be getting interim reports on investigations every 6 weeks,” said Ramaphosa.
“The fight against the coronavirus pandemic is stretching our capabilities and resources to their limit.
“We are therefore determined that there should be no theft, no wastage and no mismanagement of public funds.
“The consequences for those who break the law or bypass regulations will be severe.”