President Cyril Ramaphosa.

PRESIDENT CYRIL Ramaphosa said allegations that the country’s R500 billion COVID-19 relief funds were stolen were ‘unfounded’ and ‘not true’.

Answering oral questions in the National Assembly on Thursday, Ramaphosa said the amount spent by government on personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus pandemic was about R11 billion.

 “Many people believe that the entire R500 billion has been stolen, that is far from the truth. What has been spent on PPEs as per the National Treasury records is about R11 billion and much of that money has gone into buying PPEs,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa said steps being taken by government to deal with COVID-related corruption left no space for the abuse of “the people’s money”.

He said government was determined to ensure that all criminal acts related to government’s response to COVID-19 pandemic were uncovered and those responsible are held to account.

“This is what our people want, expect and demand and we are going to live up to our people’s expectations,” said Ramaphosa.

He said he has authorised the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to probe allegations relating to the misuse of COVID-19 funds across all spheres of the state.

“If the SIU finds evidence that a criminal offense has been committed, it is obliged to refer such evidence to the Prosecuting Authority and empowered to institute civil proceedings for the recovery of any damages or losses incurred by the state,” said Ramaphosa.

“The work of the SIU is taking place alongside the work of the recently-established special coordination centre, which is called the Fusion Centre, to strengthen the collective efforts among law-enforcement agencies to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute COVID-related corruption. The National Treasury has taken effective steps to tighten procurement regulations. These measures will strengthen the ongoing work of the Auditor-General to audit, in real time, all COVID expenditure.”

He said earlier this week, the National Treasury started publishing the submissions from various government departments and entities on their website.

To date 95% of provincial and national departments and state entities have submitted all information regarding Covid-19 procurement to the Ministerial team.

“This initiative is unprecedented in our country’s history, enabling members of the public to find detailed information about how public funds are being spent. We believe that this establishes an important precedent for future expenditure of this nature,” he said.

“This is a watershed moment that marks the start of a new era in transparency and accountability in the procurement of goods and services by public entities. The measures that we are taking will definitely lead to procurement reform that will ensure that we find solutions to many procurement maladies, including corruption, and ensure that government does not overpay for goods and services and gets value for money.”

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