South African law enforcement officials say they have identified COVID-19 contracts worth over 8 billion Rands for fraud and corruption involving government officials and private companies.
The report by South Africa’s Special Investigating Unit, ordered by President Cyril Ramaphosa, is being celebrated by South African civil society groups, who firmly believe that proves that the nation's health sector is rife with corruption.
The SIU findings implicate more than 1,200 service providers and describes over 2,800 contracts, a majority of which involved supply of personal protective equipment to state departments, as irregular. The names of those involved have been referred to South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority.
Former Health Minister, Dr. Zweli Mkhize whom allegedly gave his friends multimillion- dollar COVID communications contracts in exchange for kickbacks, and other senior members of the ruling African National Congress, could potentially face criminal charges.
SIU officials say due process was not observed when distributing COVID-19 contracts and that most companies named in their report were either fake, set up virtually overnight, delivered substandard PPE equipment at higher prices or had no track record of supplying healthcare equipment or services.
One contract named in the report, with the South African Health Laboratory Services, was for more than 176 million rand.
“People were just sending SMS’s and then they were given contracts, without following any process; it was laissez faire,” says SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago. The SIU Tribunal Board says it is confident that at least 2 billion rands will be recovered from companies involved in the scheme.
Kganyago adds, “There was excitement around the issue that says, it’s an emergency we need to just make sure we do things, we’re not going to follow procurement processes. They took advantage of that, but they went beyond it."
"Even when there’s an emergency, there are still rules that need to be followed," he said.