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Makwetu says COVID-19 corruption probe revealed 'frightening findings'

Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu released a report on Wednesday on the real-time auditing that his office was requested by President Cyril Ramaphosa to do in order to track how funds were being spent.

FILE: Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN - Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has uncovered evidence of fraud and corruption in the spending of the government’s multi-billion rand COVID-19 relief package.

He released a report on Wednesday on the real-time auditing that his office was requested by President Cyril Ramaphosa to do in order to track how funds were being spent.

Makwetu’s teams focused on the R147.4 billion specially budgeted for COVID-19 relief, including support for businesses and employees, social relief of distress grants and the procurement of personal protective equipment and other goods and services.

The report covers spending from the start of lockdown in April to the end of July.

The Auditor-General said that his office would hand over information to the multi-agency fusion centre tasked with investigating COVID-19-related fraud and corruption.

"A lot of the effort that we put into this on the detection side of things has revealed a number of frightening findings that require to be followed up very quickly so that there is no significant passage of time before the required actions are implemented."

Makwetu said that some government IT systems were unable to cope with the new demands on them, while pre-existing problems with supply chain processes, such as a lack of internal controls and fraudulent activity, were made worse.

He said that based on what had been audited so far, his teams had found evidence of overpricing of items, government employees as well as others applying for relief they weren’t entitled to, potential fraud and the sidestepping of supply chain management rules and regulations.

Makwetu said that the fusion centre has the tools, the skills and the mandate to take things to the next level and ensure that there were consequences if auditors’ suspicions of wrongdoing were confirmed.

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