Anti-corruption watchdog probes COVID-19 tenders in SA

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By Alexander NyarkoYeboah –

South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog has launched an investigation into irregularities in government tenders during the coronavirus crisis.

The inquiries by the Public Protector come after the Special Investigating Unit launched a separate probe into tenders for personal protective equipment (PPE) in the province of Gauteng, the country’s economic heartland.

This was made known to the through a Reuters News Agency report on Monday which spelt out efforts by watchdog organization to put the Government of South Africa on its toes as far as management of COVID-19 tenders was concerned.

This report also came on the heels of local news reports in South Africa which was full of allegations “that politically connected individuals had benefited from government contracts for goods and services mobilized to contain the spread of COVID-19.”

According to the report, the Spokesperson of President Cyril Ramaphosa and a top Gauteng health official had taken leaves of absence after being caught up in the scandals.

The Public Protector, Madam BusisiweMkhwebane, said her outfit was investigating a quarantine camp tender in Mpumalanga province, an allegation that KwaZulu-Natal province had procured PPE at inflated prices, and a claim that a lodge being used as a quarantine site in Eastern Cape Province was owned by a government official, among other investigations.

“It is also looking into complaints that people were denied COVID-19 grants on unreasonable grounds,” the reports also said.

MadamMkhwebane, who heads the anti-corruption watchdog, has become a controversial figure in South Africa with her supporters saying she has held top officials in South Africa to account whilst her detractors believing that she has targeted President Ramaphosaand his close allies on behalf of a faction in the governing African National Congress closely aligned to former President Jacob Zuma, an accusation she denies.

President Ramaphosa said in a weekly newsletter to the nation on Monday that families and friends of politicians and civil servants winning state contracts contributed to perceptions of nepotism and abuse, insisting that his government would not allow public funds “to vanish down a black hole of corruption.”

South Africa has recorded more than half a million cases of COVID-19, the most on the African continent, with the number of infections rising rapidly.

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