SA’s astronomical Covid-19 corruption ‘is a crime against ...

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SA’s astronomical Covid-19 corruption ‘is a crime against humanity’

Listening to SIU details of R10.5bn in dodgy deals prompts one MP to say: ‘Make it the year of orange overalls’

Parliamentary editor
PPE corruption has soared.
Sick trade PPE corruption has soared.
Image: 123RF/viorelkurnosov

The Special Investigating Unit is probing allegations of Covid-19-related corruption to the tune of R10.5bn – almost 70% of what the government spent on tackling the coronavirus by the end of August.

This is according to a report presented by the head of the SIU, advocate Andy Mothibi, and his team in parliament on Tuesday during a meeting with the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa).

Mothibi and his delegation told MPs they were probing 930 personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts across the country that have been plagued by allegations of corruption and other irregularities.

It also emerged during the meeting that the SIU was probing the chief financial officer of the department of correctional services, Nick Ligege, for allegedly awarding PPE tenders worth more than R50m to 23 companies linked “to (his) friends and family members”.

Mothibi and his team told MPs they had received the allegations against Ligege in August and immediately began their investigation.

Ligege could not immediately be reached for comment.

The SIU, along with other law-enforcement agencies such as the Hawks, the National Prosecutions Authority and the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), were briefing Scopa on the progress they were making in the battle against Covid-19 corruption.

Of the R15.6bn the government spent on Covid-19 between April and August, R10.5bn was the subject of its investigations, largely related to PPE irregularities.
Special Investigating Unit documents

The SIU listed a raft of irregularities, including the awarding of contracts to “deceased people”, families and friends, and companies that were paid millions but delivered nothing while others received tenders even though they were not registered for VAT as required by law.

The head of the Hawks, Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya, reported they would be a making a Covid-19 corruption-related arrest on Thursday.

Mothibi also told MPs the SIU had approached the Special Tribunal to declare the R139m PPE contract between Ledla, Royal Bhaca and the Gauteng health department to be declared invalid.

That matter relates to the awarding of a PPE contract to companies owned by Thandisizwe Diko, who is married to suspended presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko, by the health department at a time when it was under the leadership of former MEC Bandile Masuku.

The Dikos and the Masukus are family friends, and Masuku has since been fired from his job after the SIU made several findings against him.

Mothibi said the FIC has also frozen 39 bank accounts linked to Ledla and Royal Bhaca.

The SIU also aimed “to freeze approximately R26m as the proceeds of unlawful activities” held in the accounts of Ledla and Royal Bhaca.

They were also seeking to freeze the pension payout of “between approximately R500,000 and R700,000” of the former CFO of the Gauteng health CFO Kabelo Lehloenya, who resigned at the height of the scandal in June.

The FIC has also frozen 39 bank acccounts linked to Ledla and Royal Bhaca.

Mothibi said that in total they were probing 930 cases related to PPE corruption across the country in which all three entities and departments from all three spheres of government were implicated.

The documents the SIU tabled at the Scopa meeting showed that of the R15.6bn the government spent on Covid-19 between April and August, R10.5bn was the subject of its investigations, largely related to PPE irregularities.

“Against the R15.6bn, what is currently being investigated by the SIU, and this is again on provincial and national departments level, currently under investigation is R10.5bn, representing 67%,” said SIU CFO Andre Gernacht.

“From the SIU side, R9.7bn related to provincial expenditure, a smaller percentage (R352m) on local government and also a smaller percentage on national government,” added Gernacht.

Mothibi said the figures were expected to rise as they picked more allegations or matters to investigate.

Gauteng topped the list of provinces with the highest value of PPE contracts under investigation, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

Scopa chairperson Mkhulelo Hlengwa said “what we’re hearing today is grand looting of the highest order”, and urged the enforcement agencies to be unrelenting in going after the alleged looters.

“This kind of corruption is actually a crime against humanity.”

The ANC’s Bheki Hadebe said “2020 must be the year of orange overalls”.