South Africa’s Ramaphosa Appoints Panel to Probe Covid-19 Graft

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President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed a government committee to investigate alleged corruption associated with the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The panel, to be headed by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, will look into possible graft in the procurement of goods and services used in the fight against Covid-19, the Presidency said in a statement on its website.

The move follows a public outcry that senior government and ruling party officials have benefited from state contracts without proper procedures being followed. Those implicated include Khusela Diko, Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman, and Bandile Masuku, the head of the health department in the central Gauteng province. Both were both forced to vacate their positions.

“We need to deal with corruption,” Lamola said in an online briefing. “Government is committed to action being taken by all the law enforcement agencies.”

All ministers and the heads of the country’s nine provinces are required to provide the committee this week with the names of companies and details of tenders and contracts awarded by government departments and state-owned companies since a National State of Disaster was declared on March 26.

The new panel will complement the work of a group of nine government agencies, including the National Prosecuting Authority and South African Police Service, that have also been tasked with preventing, detecting and investigating Covid-related corruption. Those agencies are already probing 36 cases involving the fraudulent distribution of food parcels and welfare grants, the purchase of medical supplies and the looting of the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

“These cases send a strong message that government will not tolerate any acts of corruption, particularly among its officials, and that all perpetrators will be arrested and prosecuted,” the cabinet said in a statement.

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