Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says the inter-ministerial committee appointed to “deal with” alleged COVID-19 corruption is not replacing law enforcement agencies.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the committee’s appointment on Wednesday after a Cabinet meeting held earlier this week.
‘Executive investigating itself’
Ramaphosa said the committee, chaired by Lamola, “will look into corruption in the procurement of goods and services sourced for the purpose of containing and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).”
Other members include Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, Police Minister Bheki Cele, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu, and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The President also requested all Ministers and Premiers to provide names of companies and details of COVID-19 tenders and contracts that have been issued by their respective departments so far, adding that he intends to make this information public.
Some observers have raised concerns about the Executive seemingly investigating itself. However, during a media briefing on the Cabinet’s decisions on Thursday, Lamola maintained that this is not be the case.
Committee ‘not replacing law enforcement’
He explained, “I must state that the inter-ministerial committee is not replacing the work of the investigators [or] the fusion centre. We are there to call upon our Directors-General [and] various role players within the state that dealt with procurement to publish the list (of tenders).
“If there is anything, we will allow that to be handled by our law enforcement agencies. We are not replacing the constitutionally mandated law enforcement structures to deal with malpractice and corruption.
“They must continue to do their job. We are just going to help them with more information to say, in this Department of Justice, these are the companies that did the job, this is how they did it and this is the amount (they were paid), and if there is any suspicion, there would be an investigation to verify if there was any malpractice [or] corruption.”
On Wednesday, Mboweni similarly told Parliament that he would ask Finance MECs across the country to publish all contracts issued, “who the competitors were and on what basis the losing companies lost. We are also interested in the age of the companies.”
Last month, Ramaphosa signed a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) proclamation authorising investigations into all COVID-19 procurement across South Africa.
He also established a “fusion centre” which brings together the Financial Intelligence Centre, Independent Police Investigative Directorate, National Prosecuting Authority, Hawks, Crime Intelligence and SAPS Detective Service, SA Revenue Service, SIU and the State Security Agency.
“These bodies are now working together not just to investigate individual allegations, but also establish linkages between patronage networks that are trying to hide their activities. Because of this cooperation, prosecutions should proceed more quickly and stand a better chance of success,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter earlier this week.