Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head Advocate Andy Mothibi says the resignation of officials and executive authorities under clouds of alleged corruption should not absolve them from being held to account.
Mothibi was briefing the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts on the progress of investigations into government’s COVID-19 spending and procurement.
“A resignation is not enough. We should be consistent when dealing with this issue of resignation. As a principle, a resignation should not absolve anyone – whether you are an official or an executive authority – it should not absolve you from a criminal process where there is evidence…it should [also] not absolve you from civil litigation where there is evidence that you participated in the losses and the damages suffered by the state.
“[Resignation] should not absolve anyone from any further actions civically or criminally,” he said.
The corruption-busting unit is in the process of or has investigated at least R14.8 billion worth of government COVID-19 related spending in the form of at least 5054 “irregular” contracts awarded to about 2686 service providers.
He added that the SIU has approached the Special Tribunal for applications to set aside and recover at least R1.1 billion worth of those contracts.
Mothibi said where the SIU had referred officials accused of wrongdoing to be disciplined by government departments and none such action was taken, the unit would require that the relevant department provide reasons.
“In cases where we have referred matters to the state institutions for action to be taken [against officials]…because it is an administrative decision, we reserve the right that we could review that decision not to act so that appropriate action can be taken.
“We will continue on that trajectory of doing our work without fear, favour or prejudice and hold those who are accountable to account including following up where we have handed over the evidence,” Mothibi said.
Turning to the blacklisting of companies who are found to have transgressed the law when dealing with state institutions, Mothibi said the unit is working hard to “lift the corporate veil under which these directors more often hide behind”.
“There is an opportunity here to ensure that we demonstrate accountability on the directors [of companies] because it is not far-fetched that you would blacklist a company and the director would go and recreate a company elsewhere and continue to do business [with the State],” he said.
Advocate Mothibi said that in its final COVID-19 report, the unit will raise its concerns with President Cyril Ramaphosa on the current format of the public procurement process.
“Based on the evidence that we are gathering, across all other investigations, we came across a whole number of irregularities and corrupt activities around the procurement system.
“Almost 95% of investigations…are focussed on irregular procurement processes and the focus…is on the procurement system obviously because that’s where the purse and the money is. We will pronounce ourselves around that [as] there is a serious rethink and review of that system that is required so that appropriate measures are put in place to avoid all of this going forward,” he said.
The final report on the Personal Protective Equipment investigations by the SIU is expected to be handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa by the end of this week.
Source: South African Government News Agency