Ramaphosa signs SIU proclamation in hopes of halting Covid-19 relief theft
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Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed concern about alleged corruption around Covid-19 funds.
The president said the allegations of funds intended for Covid-19 social relief being stolen or misused had led him to sign a proclamation that will allow the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to probe the unlawful conduct.
Ramaphosa made the announcement while addressing the nation on Thursday.
He reiterated that the measures put in place to provide economic relief for businesses and South Africans had been reaching those in need. However, he said he was concerned about funds intended for personal protective equipment and the overpricing of goods being abused.
He said the SIU would investigate allegations related to the misuse of Covid-19 funds in all areas of the state.
“If the SIU finds evidence that a criminal offence has been committed, it is obliged to refer
such evidence to the National Prosecutions 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,” Ramaphosa said.
In addition to the SIU, a collaborative effort centre has been established and it will comprise the Hawks, Crime Intelligence, SAPS, the Financial Intelligence Centre and the Independent Police Investigating Directorate.
The centre is based at the FIC and has been investigating cases involving the distribution of food parcels, social relief grants and procurement.
He said at least 36 cases have been investigated and were at various stages.
“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,” he said.
Ramaphosa said other sectors of the government have also stepped up pressure on corruption.
“Since the declaration of the national state of disaster, the Competition Commission has investigated over 800 complaints of excessive pricing.
“It has so far prosecuted or reached settlements with 28 companies, imposing penalties and fines of over R16m.
“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,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the government was determined to ensure that those who steal will be held accountable.
‘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. The people of South Africa require nothing less than full accountability from those who have been elected and appointed to serve them,” the president said.
The SIU proclamation has been gazetted.