25 August 2010 | Nick Martindale
The procurement practices of seven South African government departments have come under scrutiny by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) after president Jacob Zuma ordered a probe into allegations of corruption.
At the Department of Public Works (DPW) investigations will examine “numerous leases negotiated by the DPW for and on behalf of client departments, some of which involve significant amounts”.
A spokesperson for the DPW said: “In line with protocol measures, the department will hand over a significant number of documents to SIU as part of its investigation. Documentation requested includes that related to lease agreements. The department wishes to confirm its resolve to co-operate with this investigation to the full extent.”
Procedures at the Department of Arts and Culture will also be scrutinised, including allegations that it misspent or underspent money that had been allocated for the 2010 World Cup between 2007 and 2009.
Another probe will centre on the South African Police Service (SAPS), including payments related to leased accommodation made by personnel with “undeclared conflicts of interest” using the service’s procurement system.
The other departments under scrutiny are the Department of Health in the Gauteng Province, the Department of Human Settlements, the Department of Education in the Eastern Cape Province and the South African Social Security Agency.
An SIU spokesperson said: “The SIU has started detailed investigations into these matters and is treating them as extremely high priority. Each investigation will be staffed by a substantial team of forensic investigators, lawyers, accountants and analysts. Procurement processes are generally a problem all over the world, but are especially a challenge in South Africa.”
News of the probe was welcomed by the South African Communist Party, a member of the Tripartite Alliance that consists of the African National Congress and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
A party spokesperson said: “We hope this investigation will help us get to the bottom of what we believe is a flawed tendering system that requires drastic improvements in order to empower communities, develop our economy, create jobs and ensure that a swift end is put to the swindling of funds meant for the poor by a corrupt few.”
A representative in the President’s Office added: “We are pleased to note that in each case the relevant ministries and departments are co-operating fully with the investigations, and will continue to do so going forward, because they want solutions. Some ministers have requested the president assist them in eradicating corruption and maladministration in their departments.”
No timeline for the conclusion of the investigations has been put forward.
The Department of Arts and Culture and SAPS declined to comment.