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S/Africa: Ombudsman joins Covid-19 corruption probe

South Africa's Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is probing corruption in the dishing out of coronavirus relief funds to institutions and…

South Africa’s Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is probing corruption in the dishing out of coronavirus relief funds to institutions and individuals, her office confirmed on Monday.The Ombudsman has embarked on the exercise a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered other law enforcing agents to probe the malpractice that has made headlines nationwide.

 

Ramaphosa’s government provided funds to both state bodies to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and ordinary people to help them ease life due to unemployment under the lockdown restrictions.

 

However, it had transpired that the funds have not fairly been allocated to the targeted people, while tenders were allegedly awarded corruptly to certain firms to carry out the tasks.

 

According to Mkhwebane, her office has been inundated with complaints of suspected misconduct and service delivery failure in the last four months of the lockdown.

 

“Service failure allegations account for a lion’s share of the grievances, with as many as 450 people approaching my office to complain about what they deemed were unreasonable grounds for declining their applications for a $20-a-month special social relief of distress grants,” she said.

 

The amount was meant for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic. 

This led the government to launch the Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme to be dispensed through the country’s facility called the Unemployment Insurance Fund. 

 

The grants were among several interventions Ramaphosa announced in March in an effort to soften the impact of the virus on society.

 

Apart from the Ombudsman, the country’s Special Investigative Unit (SIU) and the police are also probing the Gauteng Provincial government’s health officials for awarding a $7.3 million tender to supply personnel protective equipment (PPE) to a company owned by the husband of Khusela Diko, Ramaphosa’s own presidential spokesperson. 

 

Diko has since stepped down from her post as she awaits the outcome of the SIU and police probe into her husband’s conduct in securing the Gauteng Province government’s tender.

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