Only 65 pay for Covid-19 corruption, MPs decry lack of consequences

Head of the Special Investigating Unit Advocate Andy Mothibi. Picture: Supplied

Head of the Special Investigating Unit Advocate Andy Mothibi. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 22, 2023


Cape Town - Only 65 government officials implicated in Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) tender corruption have been found guilty after the Special Investigating Unit referred 456 cases to department heads for disciplinary measures, MPs were briefed.

This emerged when Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, his subordinates and SIU bosses presented reports to the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), where they updated MPs about the investigative unit’s active and recent cases.

According to a recent SIU report, the unit had been investigating in excess of R6 billion worth of PPE contracts, where it found irregularities in 93% of the contracts.

The referrals for disciplinary action affect 253 employees, the latest report presented to Scopa shows. Of the 65 officials found guilty, nine officials had been fired, one demoted, five suspended without pay for varying periods, 23 slapped with warnings, and one sent for “corrective counselling”.

“A further 26 officials have been found guilty, but sanction is still awaited (sic),” the report said.

The National Prosecuting Authorities (NPA) received 476 SIU referrals and clinched two guilty verdicts, while 12 arrests were made with eight more pending. This has resulted in the recovery of R36.3m in cash or assets, while contracts worth R729m have been set aside.

A total of 346 criminal referrals – which don’t relate to PPE contracts – have been referred to the NPA for 2022/23. Between 2019 and 2023, the NPA turned SIU referrals to 31 convictions, decided not to prosecute 272 decisions and is still saddled with 74 SIU referrals in courts.

Presidency deputy director-general Matsietsi Mekoa said: “We’re really becoming a country that feasts on big procurement.”

She said the SIU had 67 active proclamations with the highest, at 30, coming in the 2019/20 financial year. Mekoa said she noticed a pattern of infrastructure procurement being targeted for corruption.

She said there was low compliance from departments in terms of using the Persal human resources system to stem the tide of government employees who switch departments in attempts to evade accountability.

EFF MP Veronica Mente said it was unacceptable that government employees were getting away with warnings on matters referred by the SIU to department heads.

Scopa chairperson IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the “rigidity” of labour laws appeared to get in the way of punishment being meted out.

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Cape Argus