All COVID-19 funds spent fraudulently will be recovered, vows Ramaphosa

The president said that there were already 36 investigations underway, which included fraudulent UIF claims and overpricing of procurement and fake NGOs.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday evening said that he had signed a proclamation to empower the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to clamp down on corruption involving COVID-19 funds.

“In order to speed up and strengthen the process of dealing with corruption, I have today signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit – the SIU – to investigate any unlawful or improper conduct in the procurement of any goods, works and services during or related to the national state of disaster in any state institution,” Ramaphosa said.

“This empowers the SIU to probe any allegations relating to the misuse of COVID-19 funds across all spheres of the state. If the SIU finds evidence that a criminal offence has been committed, it is obliged to refer such evidence to the prosecuting authority,” he added.

Ramaphosa said that there were already 36 investigations underway, which included fraudulent Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) claims and overpricing of procurement and fake NGOs. And nine financial intelligence and security agencies have come together to fast track investigations.

The president said that 4.4 million people had received R2.2 billion of the special COVID-19 grant since April. R34 billion was paid by the UIF’s special COVID-19 benefit to 7.5 million workers.

R1.5 billion has been paid in loan guarantees to support businesses and R12 billion has benefited 8,600 small and medium companies. While over R70 billion in tax relief has been provided to companies.

But through all the good work, Ramaphosa said that corruption was a challenge. And an amalgamation of agencies including the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), the Hawks, the NPA, Sars, and intelligence has been brought together to speed up investigations.

“The people of South Africa require nothing less than full accountability from those who have been elected and appointed to serve them.

“We commend those provincial governments and municipalities that have already started taking disciplinary action against officials accused of improper conduct and, where appropriate, have reported them to the law enforcement agencies,” Ramaphosa said.

The president said that all money spent fraudulently would be recovered.

“All the funds that we have committed must reach their intended recipients and must be put to their proper use. We will take steps to recover all funds that have been stolen or where goods have been overpriced,” he said. “The success of our fight against corruption depends on the involvement of all citizens and all parts of society.”

The Auditor-General has adopted special measures to safeguard funds and the Competition Commission has investigated over 800 complaints of excessive pricing, prosecuted or reached settlements with 28 companies, imposing penalties and fines of over R16 million.

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