ANC Parliamentary Caucus response to the first in a series of reports of the Auditor-General (AG) dated 02nd September 2020 on the management of Covid-19 Relief Package
9 September 2020
The release of the first in a series of reports by the Auditor General (AG) in response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’ s request for a real time audit on the management of expenditure on the Covid – 19 Relief Package has seen Caucus move into immediate action.
Caucus notes the Government’s risk adjusted strategy intervention which allowed the country to gradually transition from Level 5 of the National lockdown to Level 2, thus averting one of the worst health pandemics our country has witnessed since 1918.
The AG’s First Report for the period ending 31 July 2020 reflects substantive transgressions and flouting of PFMA regulations and the abuse of funds due to pre – existing deficiencies in the supply chain processes of Government which were amplified by the introduction of emergency procurement processes.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in Section 217 (1) on Procurement also calls on organs of State in all the three spheres to ensure that in contracting for goods or services, it must do so in accordance with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective. Clearly, this AG’s special report finds that this was disregarded especially in the procurement of PPEs.
The ANC Caucus is dismayed by these damning findings and commends the AG for exposing these malpractices especially exposing in the AG’s words captured as “clear indicators of fraudulent activities” in the PPE procurement processes as well as of poor – record keeping and an inability to co-ordinate and oversee multi – departmental agencies and spheres. The Report indicates that notwithstanding checks and balances, these measures were not adequate to deter wrongdoing especially in the procurement of goods and services and in its place, overpricing has taken place despite National Treasury regulations.
Caucus wishes to reiterate that the public must at all times be informed by facts and evidence and not manufactured narratives that cannot produce evidence amidst a slew of claims.
The first report of the AG deals with R68.9 Billion (47%) of the R147.4 Billion of funds spent on government’s Covid -19 initiatives.
The Covid – 19 Relief Package has also provided for a safety net for the most vulnerable, the unemployed and the aged through increased social grants. The Temporary Employer/ Employee Relief Scheme has greatly assisted those who were dislocated and could not work during the shut – down or lost their jobs. Food parcels and many other interventions have also been possible through the Relief Package.
The ANC National Executive Committee and the President have led the way. The decisiveness that has been displayed by the governing party in dealing with the abuse of Covid – 19 relief funds has resulted in practical steps being publicly announced this week.
Individuals in government who have been put on precautionary suspension will need to explain what has happened.
As Caucus we strongly condemn the actions of those individuals who have acted in their own subjective interest and with no authority, who have seen an opportunity to appropriate resources destined to alleviate the pandemic.
Having received the AG’s first report, Caucus through the Office of the Chief Whip has decided to convene follow – up meetings with the Executive to assess progress on the management of COVID – 19 resources. These meetings will commence this week.
ANC Study Groups will convene and prepare for the calling of both Portfolio and Select Committees to take up the issues raised in the AG’s report. It is the Committees of Parliament who have the powers to effect oversight and recommend. In this context we will not support the call for any ad hoc committee when the Committees of Parliament have the mandate and authority to do the work. Caucus calls upon the Committees to strengthen their oversight and bring to each House a report recommending action where there is prima facia evidence of corrupt practices having taken place.
We also call upon the AG to use the powers given to the Office of the AG when we passed amendments to the Public Audit Act in 2018. Remedial action must follow and certificates of debt against individuals implicated must also be issued.
Caucus, through its oversight work in Parliament and in its Constituency, work will continue to ensure COVID - 19 funding is not further exploited and reaches the intended groups. Caucus will also strengthen its own internal mechanisms by bolstering its oversight as well as ensuring more accountability and transparency.
In this regard Caucus is encouraged by the establishment the Multi – Party agency (SAPS, NPA, SIU, Financial Intelligence Centre) to accelerate its work to ensure that wrongdoers who looted these funds are brought to book to face the full might of the law.
In conclusion, the ANC Caucus in Parliament calls for corrupt individuals in government and the private sector to be charged using all the necessary legal prescripts from National Treasury including the PFMA.
Accounting Officers in Departments must be encouraged to halt all transactions to companies with black spots until their investigations are finalized in accordance with PFMA regulations. Lifestyle audits and the vigorous implementation of existing legislation which prohibits public servants from doing business with the State must bear results.
Issued by the Office of the Chief Whip, Hon. Pemmy Majodina