President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa, addressing the nation on 23 July. (GCIS)
  • Misused and stolen money earmarked to combat the coronavirus and its economic effects worries him, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.
  • So he's assigned the Special Investigating Unit to deal with perpetrators.
  • The SIU mandate, immediately proclaimed, does not just cover fraud and corruption. The unit will also be looking for money spent badly, and broken rules.
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The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) will be looking into fraud and mismanagement of money intended to combat the coronavirus and its economic and social impact, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.

But the scope of its work will be broader than that, the formal proclamation of the SIU's scope of work, immediately published on Thursday, shows.

"What concerns me, and what concerns all South Africans, are those instances where funds are stolen, where they are misused, where goods that we have to procure are overpriced, where food parcels are diverted from needy households, where there is corruption and mismanagement of public funds," Ramaphosa said.

He mentioned six ways in which money was being misdirected, misused, or stolen:

  • fraudulent Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) claims
  • overpricing of goods and services
  • violation of emergency procurement regulations
  • collusions between officials and service providers
  • abuse of food parcel distribution
  • setting up fake non-profit organisations to access relief funding

Here is what the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has actually been tasked with doing.

The SIU's mandate is extremely broad, covering officials or employees of state institutions – "or any other person or entity" – in their actions during the national state of disaster, which was declared on 15 March and is expected to continue for months more.

Within that disaster period the unit must investigate procurement or contracting for any "goods, works and services", with a specific mention for "the construction, refurbishment, leasing, occupation and use of immovable property".

It is due to look for fraud or actions by people "to corruptly or unduly benefit themselves or any other person". But Ramaphosa also wants it to investigate failures to apply rules, from legislation right down to "circulars or instructions issued by the National Treasury or the relevant Provincial Treasury".

Payments that were "not fair, competitive, transparent, equitable or cost-effective" are also part of the SIU's work.

Where there are such breaches, the SIU has the power to follow contracts, companies, and people back as far as it needs to, and there is no limit on how far into the future it can pursue relevant leads.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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