Amend law to insulate state contracts from political influence - SIU head
Johannesburg - Special Investigating Unit head, advocate Andy Mothibi, has indicated that new regulations would have to be put in place by the government to regulate the involvement of influential figures in state procurement.
Mothibi appeared before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Wednesday where he unpacked the outcomes of investigations into the R30.7-billion Covid-19 PPE (personal protective equipment) procurement by state institutions.
“There has been a general outcry about the involvement of domestic influential prominent persons as defined in the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) and their immediate families benefiting from the PPE procurement by the state institution.
“We have found these allegations in various provinces, that so and so received this contract because he is associated with a certain prominent member,” Mothibi said.
The looting of Covid-19 relief funds through PPE tender corruption has seen many contractors who lined themselves up for procurement deals being flagged in various provinces as some of them belonged to relatives of ANC politicians.
Mothibi said while the awarding of contracts to family members of influential figures was not automatically rendered unlawful, they had to be scrutinised for compliance.
“The needs exist for considering additional safeguards for situations where state institutions contract with persons in these categories,” he said.
He said this would have to be done through legislative amendments which would, among other things, compel bidders to disclose their proximity to such influential persons.
“If these measures are in place, failure to make such disclosures must then be made unlawful and should constitute a statutory course of action to attack the validity of the process,” Mothibi said.
Mothibi called on Scopa to exercise oversight to ensure that the departments fingered in the SIU investigations implemented the recommendations and consequence management.
The SIU is currently probing about R13.3bn in PPE contracts, with civil litigation already underway for a number of companies which were found to have irregularly benefited.
Mothibi said the SIU had, as of November 25, 2020, enrolled Covid-19 procurement matters to the total value of R259m before the Special Tribunal in a bid to recover the funds.
“As at the 4th of February, there have been 15 matters enrolled in the Special Tribunal to the contract value of R365m, so the number of matters has since increased. We will ensure that we follow up and execute on these matters without delay,” he said.