Africa: South Africa - Watchdog Opens Investigation Into Covid Corruption and 'Pillage'

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A graft investigation has been opened in South Africa to probe potential corruption linked to government tenders during the Covid-19 crisis, the anti-corruption watchdog said on Monday.

South Africa's Public Protector agency said in a statement on Monday that the "lion's share of the grievances" relating to the pandemic concern service failure, such as social welfare payments being denied.

However, the anti-corruption watchdog is also looking into "alleged maladministration and irregularities" for tenders awarded for a quarantine camp and the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

"We have been consistent in our call on the bureaucracy to exercise prudence when it comes to spending public funds on Covid-19 related goods and services," said Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the head of the anti-corruption agency.

Mkhwebane said that changes to normal procurement practices during the coronavirus pandemic were not "an open season to pillage", adding that the watchdog is also looking at other matters in which it may open investigations based on its own initiative.

South Africa is one of the hardest hit countries on the African continent with more than 511,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 8,366 people dead, according to statistics from South Africa's health ministry on 2 August.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was "unconscionable" that some people attempted to use the pandemic as an opportunity to "unlawfully enrich themselves", according to News24.

Senior members of the government have been implicated in alleged corruption scandals with presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko, Gauteng official Bandile Masuku and his wife, a representative for Johannesburg, involved in a tender debacle for PPE, Eyewitness News reported.

Other countries on the African continent have also started to go through the books, investigating the use of cash earmarked for the fight against Covid-19. Madagascar's government last week published a report detailing how the government had managed money from international lenders.

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