Pretoria - Opposition parties and non-governmental organisations want President Cyril Ramaphosa to either hand over the administration of the state of disaster funds or explain what anti-corruption measures are in place to avoid looting and mismanagement similar to the multi-billion Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) scandal.
They also want the president to disclose how the R1 billion allocated for flood relief efforts in Kwazulu-Natal will be distributed. They include the Freedom Front Plus, Cope, DA, Corruption Watch and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
The organisations spoke to the Pretoria News after Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday on the government’s response to the devastating floods in KZN and Eastern Cape.
The president said a comprehensive assessment of the economic cost of the floods still had to be made, but it was clear costs would run into billions of rands for the rebuilding of infrastructure and loss of production. He said the government would make financial resources available to meet this challenge, adding that the Finance Minister Enoch Godogwana had already allocated R1bn.
“Parliament will be approached for the appropriation of additional resources.”
Ramaphosa further announced an oversight task team to ensure there would be no looting of the relief funds. They will comprise various stakeholders including the Office of the Auditor-General, business, religious sector, labour, community-based organisations as well as professional bodies such as engineers and accountants.
“It will be critical, as we undertake this work, that all the resources we mobilise are used for their intended purposes and reach the intended recipients. There can be no room for corruption, mismanagement or fraud of any sort. Learning from the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are drawing together various stakeholders to be part of an oversight structure to ensure all funds disbursed to respond to this disaster are properly accounted for and that the state receives value for money,” Ramaphosa said.
However, opposition parties and NGOs said the government could not be trusted with the funds because it had said the same about the PPE budget.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said Ramaphosa should explain in detail the anti-corruption measures in place. “He stated that the Auditor-General and National Treasury will be involved in applying the funds but he said that regarding the Covid-19 funds as well. In addition to this, he also made mention of the other role-players as well as the government departments. And that is precisely the problem. He is paving the way for possible corruption,” said Groenewald.
“An example of where corruption could be committed is with the coupons that will be made available to people for rebuilding their homes. The FF+ has no objection to the idea in principle, however, one cannot help but wonder how it will be implemented. It is comparable to the Covid-19 food parcels. Officials exploited the situation for self-enrichment and in some cases, people had to bribe officials to get food parcels,” added Groenewald.
Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said Ramaphosa should hand over control of the funds to NGOs. “We expected that President Ramaphosa would announce that all the disaster funds would be administered by humanitarian organisations such as Gift of the Givers, community-based organisations and religious organisations and not politicians because we don't want to see a repeat of what happened with the Covid-19 PPE funds, where senior politicians and officials were found on the wrong side of the law. We call on President Ramaphosa to hand over the administration of the funds to these independent bodies,” said Bloem.
The DA's shadow Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Cilliers Brink, said the party wanted the oversight powers of Parliament to be strengthened to prevent the abuse of power and public money under a national state of disaster.
“There is no effective co-ordination of flood relief in especially KwaZulu-Natal, and widespread reports of abuse of public resources by the ANC in the wake of the disaster.
“The health risks linked to an unstable supply of clean water and a lack of sanitation are high and we cannot afford a repeat of the PPE scandal where people’s lives were gambled while officials and cadres looted critical funding,” said Cilliers.
Ahmed Kathrada Foundation executive director Neeshan Balton said: “All procurement must be made transparently and joint civil society and government oversight teams established.
“Regular reports on expenditure and tender allocations must be made available and the relevant legislature committees must be enabled to do their oversight work over government departments”, Balton said. Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said this showed people had no trust in the government.
“This was largely because of the experience we have seen in in relation to the Covid-19. Those are things that make people suspicious and ask if the government can be trusted. So It is not unfounded to see people reacting the way they do,” he said.