South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has constituted a ministerial committee to prove alleged corruption in state tenders in the fight against COVID-19, his office said on Thursday, reported Reuters.
“The committee will look into corruption in the procurement of goods and services sourced for the purpose of containing and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the president’s office noted in a statement on Thursday.
The statement added that the alleged contracts included the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).
South Africa has already reported more than half a million coronavirus cases. At least 9,900 people have died, while over 394,000 have recovered as of Friday, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Over 24,000 health workers have also been infected by the virus and 181 have died since March when the first coronavirus case was reported in the country.
There have been reports of alleged deals between government officials and businesses providing medical equipment and food aid parcels to the poor. The reports claim that individuals who have connection with the government and the governing African National Congress Party (ANC) have benefited from contracts for supplying goods and services mobilized to contain the spread of COVID-19.
It is alleged that the government has given contracts to service providers for PPE at highly inflated prices. In other cases, PPE has not been delivered at all.
The reports have outraged South Africans who are already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog has also began an investigation into irregularities in the government contracts, the latest in a series of high-profile corruption scandals involving politically connected individuals.
In a newsletter published earlier this week, the South African president pledged to “finally deal with the entrenched patronage networks that enable government employees to bid for state contracts through their friends and relatives”.
Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman, Khusela Diko, and a top Gauteng health official have taken leaves of absence after a media report said that Diko’s husband won PPE contracts with the Gauteng government.