PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa said corrupt practices around medical safety gear for COVID-19 health workers is tantamount to “murder”, echoing recent sentiments made by the World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Speaking to members of the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) on Wednesday evening, Ramaphosa said excessive profiteering from personal protective equipment (PPE) was ‘unacceptable’ and ‘criminal’.
He said government procurement systems need to be completely overhauled.
Ramaphosa said he was appalled that a mask which cost R2 is now being sold by service providers at a staggering R90.
“That must tell you that this is not only wrong but criminal. It is completely unacceptable. I indeed subscribe to the WHO director-general’s opinion that COVID corruption is akin to murder,” Ramaphosa said SANEF members.
Ramaphosa said government was currently investigating related to the COVID-19 relief funds.
He said the processes around corruption are being undertaken by all agencies such as the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the SA Revenue Services (SARS), which are part of the newly established fusion centre.
The SIU is investigating 90 companies which are alleged to have benefitted from corrupt health department contracts to the tune of over R2 billion.
Ramaphosa said, however, that there is a silver lining amid all the corruption allegations against government officials involved in PPE fraud.
He said in future there will be more transparency with procurement so that taxpayers know what their money is being spent on.
“There is an intense focus on detecting and prosecuting COVID related corruption and improving transparency in procurement,” Ramaphosa said.
“I have often said that we must look out for some silver linings beneath this COVID-19 cloud, one of those would be from now on when it comes to procurement we need to have transparency. The type of transparency that will enable our people to know what the money that they pay in taxes is going to be used for.”
Outgoing auditor-general Kimi Makwetu has warned that “even in the midst of a crisis, transparency and accountability for government spending to the benefit of citizens cannot take a backseat”.
(COMPILED BY INSIDE POLITICS STAFF)