‘Watch the space:’ Mboweni promises action against COVID-19 ‘thieves’

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has promised that the government will take action against individuals and businesses implicated in alleged theft of COVID-19 funds.

In a series of Twitter posts on Sunday evening, Mboweni said the “wrongs” committed by “unscrupulous thieves must be health with decisively.”

He added, “It is time that leadership led without fear, favour or prejudice. Watch the space. A tender is an ethical contract. It is not a blank cheque to deceive and steal. And stealing from unwell people! During a COVID-19 pandemic! Please people. What kind of people are these criminals?!

“We should be working together to defeat the virus. Not see this as an opportunity to defraud the state and unwell people. We are watching you and there has to be consequences. For sure. Game over!”

Alleged PPE corruption

The Minister did not however specify what actions the government will take. He was reacting to widespread reports of corruption surrounding tender processes for the provision of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE).

According to a Sunday Independent report, these tenders allegedly amounted to R2.2 billion in Gauteng province. Another report by the Sunday Times indicated that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is investigating up to 90 companies that won PPE contracts in Gauteng. KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape are also under investigation.

In his address to the nation last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government was “determined” to have all corruption allegations investigated, suspects prosecuted, and funds recovered.

He said he had signed an SIU proclamation authorising it to investigate COVID-19 corruption in all spheres of the state and to “institute civil proceedings for the recovery of any damages or losses incurred by the state.”

“To ensure that action is taken speedily, I will be getting interim reports on investigations every 6 weeks. The consequences for those who break the law or bypass regulations will be severe,” Ramaphosa added.

Bandile Masuku’s statement

In a statement on Sunday, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku also promised that action will be taken against those implicated in corruption in his Department once SIU presents the evidence.

He said, “Those found guilty of fraud and/or misappropriation of funds at the Department will face the full might of the law.

“As a member of the Executive Council, I am not involved in, nor do I influence, the Department’s procurement processes. The processes of awarding contracts within the Department rests entirely with the supply chain management function in Finance.”

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