How S.A government workers helped themselves to COVID-19 millions

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER

OVER 6000 South African government workers illegally got paid R41-million from a special relief fund set up to assist private-sector employees whose salaries were reduced because of the onset of COVID-19.

The payments, made through the Temporary Employment Relief Scheme (TERS), to the civil servants are now the subject of a probe by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU).

Advocate Andy Mothibi, head of the SIU, revealed the irregular payments when he briefed Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Finances on investigations into the payments made out of the TERS, which is managed by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). 

The SIU investigation follows earlier work done by the Auditor-General office, which revealed the violations.

Advocate Andy Mothibi

Mothibi said the SIU was probing 3959 into which the R41-million was paid. He said the SIU found that of the 3959 accounts, 581 were associated with 3079 beneficiaries. The SIU also discovered that over R300 000 was paid to government officials with no bank accounts.

Mothibi also reported on good progress made by the SIU. He said a total of 70 criminal cases, involving R1.4-billion, were registered with the South African Police and were currently under investigation by the Special Commercial Crimes Unit.

No arrests have been made in relation to these matters.

Mothibi said the SIU was working together with other law enforcement agencies at the Fusion Center, a special coordination vehicle established by the South African government to crack down on COVID-19 fraud and corruption. 

The SIU head also disclosed that the SIU was probing payments made to:

  • 59 members of the South African Defence Force.
  • Seven prisoners who received a total of R40 657.93
  • Seven deceased individuals, with multiple bank accounts.

The SIU also found that the UIF spent R6.1-million on five service providers hired to provide awareness for the TERS special fund, without following supply chain management processes and in violation of the Public Finance Management Act.

Mothibi said the SIU found that  the five service providers were required to conduct advertising campaigns in order to create awareness about the UIF Covid-19 TERS, for the duration of 45 seconds, three spots per day, for four weeks on their respective radio channels and related television channels.

He said the UIF’s Bid Adjudication Committee Requested for a deviation from the normal procurement processes in order to appoint the service providers. All the service providers were appointed on a deviation.

“The SIU is conducting a full-scale investigation in order to confirm and or refute corruption, maladministration allegations, and or to determine if there were any undue benefits or gratifications paid to the UIF officials to influence the supply chain management process,” he added.