Civil society raises alarm about COVID-19 expenditure

Nine civil society organisations have written a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa to express concern over the lack of transparency in government’s spending of the R500-billion stimulus package to bolster the economy and procure medical equipment to fight the spread of the virus.

The organisation’s warned against possible corruption in National Treasury’s emergency procurement processes, saying it lacked transparency.

The formations are Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Corruption Watch, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, Johannesburg Against Injustice, My Vote Counts, Open Secrets, the Public Affairs Research Institute, #UniteBehind and Active Citizens Movement.


They have also copied the office of the Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, the standing committee on public accounts, the South African Revenue Service, office of the auditor-general and the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

Their letter comes a week after Corruption Watch wrote to National Treasury expressing the same sentiments. The organisation had given Treasury until Wednesday to reply, a deadline which was not met.

The organisations said a detailed and regularly updated report of how money collected through the Solidarity Fund is being used should be made publicly available.

Information about who is tendering and the process to appoint them should also be made available to the public, as well as the items bought should be costed to check if they are not inflated, the organisations demanded.

“Local and international experience shows that emergencies increase the risk of corruption and broader supply chain failure. The lack of transparency in government’s current emergency procurement processes enhances these risks,” they added.

Sunday World has reported on the secrecy over the panel that selected the companies that benefited from the procurement of personal protective equipment at the start of the outbreak of the virus when National Treasury centralised the system to Business for South Africa.

Treasury has since reversed the decision following a protest from black business over the appointment of mostly white-owned companies, among others.

The nine organisations wanted Ramaphosa to ensure that the auditor-general is roped in on the reporting of expenditure on COVID-19.

“We can ill-afford the diversion, looting and capture of funding meant to rescue the country from economic collapse. We cannot allow what is really the only chance left for millions of South Africans to weather the economic storm, to be squandered at the hands of thieves, and political thugs,” they said.

Corruption Watch said it had not received a response from Treasury regarding its letter of concerns which was sent last week.

Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko could not be reached for comment.

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