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Cabinet is serious about tackling fraud and corruption, says Lamola

The minister said the inter-ministerial committee, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, was an entity with teeth that would act against those found to be looting from COVID-19 related projects.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola addresses the media in Pretoria during a virtual Cabinet briefing on 6 August 2020. Picture: @GovernmentZA/Twitter

Editors' note: a previous version of this story stated that the committee would act against allegations of corruption. The committee has in fact been tasked with collating information for legal action by law enforcement agencies.

JOHANNESBURG - Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola on Thursday said that the newly established inter-ministerial committee that would investigate alleged corruption and fraud connected to the procurement of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders would be tough on corruption.

Lamola said the committee, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, should not be afraid to "act without fear of favour", and that if there was any doubt that they should not do their jobs, they should follow the Constitution.

"It is constitutionally guaranteed. No one is going to intervene or interfere in the jobs of law enforcement agencies," he said, adding that the committee would provide information for their use.

The committee comprises of ministers in the Presidency, Finance, Police, Public Service and Administration, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and Lamola is its chairperson.

Lamola said that Cabinet was serious about taking action against corrupt and unscrupulous individuals and companies.

“Allegations of corruption being investigated include the fraudulent distribution of food parcels, social relief grants, procurement of PPEs, other medical supplies, and the looting of the UIF’s COVID-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme,” he said.

Lamola was speaking at a media briefing on Cabinet’s decisions taken on Wednesday. He said that the fact that 36 corruption cases were already being investigated related to COVID-19 tenders, showed they were serious about fighting corruption.

The minister said that government wanted to do away with the perception that they were soft on corruption, particularly among their ranks.

“Cabinet welcomes the announcement that at least 36 corruption-related cases are at various stages of investigation and prosecution. These cases send a strong message that government will not tolerate any acts of corruption, particularly among its officials and that all preparators will be arrested and prosecuted,” Lamola said.

Government has faced heavy criticism recently following scandals linked to public officials benefiting unlawfully from PPE tenders. Lamola said that the inter-ministerial committee would get to work fast so that the culprits could be identified and brought to book.

“To ensure that action is taken speedily, the president will receive interim reports on investigations every six weeks. He will also receive reports from the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum,” he said.

The minister said that they would coordinate law enforcement to ensure the perpetrators did not get off the hook.

Ramaphosa requested that all ministers and premiers provide all information, including the names of companies and amounts of tenders and contracts, that were awarded by government departments and other entities during the COVID-19 national state of disaster period.

The committee of ministers is expected to prepare a comprehensive report which Ramaphosa promised would be released to the public.

According to a Presidency statement, the decision to established the committee reinforced Ramaphosa’s determination that there should be no theft, wastage, and mismanagement of public funds as the country fights the coronavirus pandemic.

The statement said that Cabinet’s decision would support other measures including the proclamation signed in July for the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to probe unlawful and improper conduct in government procurement.

Additional reporting by Theto Mahlakoana.

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