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Lamola: Team probing COVID-19 corruption won’t duplicate law enforcement's work

The inter-ministerial committee led by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola briefed the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Friday about its work in coordinating investigations into COVID-19 corruption.

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

CAPE TOWN - The inter-ministerial committee looking into COVID-19 corruption on Friday told Parliament that it was not usurping the powers of law enforcement agencies.

The committee, led by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, briefed the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) about its work in coordinating investigations into COVID-19 corruption.

Lamola assured Parliament that the committee would not duplicate the work of law enforcement.

“This committee is not going to usurp the powers of law enforcement agencies, Scopa, or parliamentary oversight roles. The committee will in fact enhance the work of your committee,” Lamola said.

The briefing to Scopa followed a similar briefing by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) this week, which also focused on COVID-19 corruption.

SIU head Advocate Andy Mothibi welcomed the committee’s involvement, saying that it would help speed up access to contracts to assess them.

“This is going to be a mechanism to ensure that the monitoring at the speed at which we address and fight this scourge of corruption is supported,” Mothibi said.

LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES APPEAL FOR MORE RESOURCES

Meanwhile, all of the country’s law enforcement agencies investigating COVID-19 graft pleaded for more resources.

The agencies, including South African Revenue Service (Sars), also briefed Scopa about investigations into corruption. They form part of the Inter-Ministerial Committee setup by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Sars, SIU, and the Auditor-General all sung from the same hymn book in Parliament.

They need resources if they are to make a difference.

Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said that they needed more technical resources.

“This is not just resources for this particular issue. This will also strengthen the overall capability of Sars. But unless we significantly boost the resources at Sars, specifically in the technical investigative areas, then we are fighting a losing battle,” Kieswetter said.

The National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi said that the inter-ministerial committee was hugely important as it showed strong political will. But the agencies still needed assistance.

“Some of the key challenges that we face as law enforcement is the issue of resources. We understand that the country doesn’t have money and we really need to try to do more with less,” Batohi said.

Hawks head Godfrey Lebeya also echoed the sentiments.

“It has been said that there is a challenge in the capacity of law enforcement,” Lebeya said.

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