President Cyril Ramaphosa last year ordered a probe following revelations that government contracts
were awarded to politically-connected individuals and companies.
In a televised address on Friday, chief investigator Andy Mothibi said that as of November, a special tribunal
had been asked to claw back a total of $17.3m in taxpayers’ money.
The probe revealed “flagrant and wanton disregard” of the law and an “insatiable pursuit of self-enrichment”,
said Mothibi, who heads the government’s Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
Investigators unearthed a string of irregularities by state departments. They included overpayment for goods,
wrong product specifications and the awarding of contracts to companies not registered on the government’s
central supplier database.
“We need to recover monies and pay that money back to the state,” he said, adding that “in some instances
political pressure played a role in the procurement” of protective gear.
The SIU has asked the courts to freeze pensions and assets of entities and individuals implicated in the thefts.
Numerous suppliers failed to disclose their close connection to officials responsible for awarding the contracts,
and others used front companies to secure deals. Nearly 40 cases will be investigated further for
possible prosecution for fraud, corruption, and financial misconduct charges.
According to the National Treasury, a total of $2bn was spent by state institutions on COVID-related
purchases between April and November last year, of which $889m is now under investigation.