Crime in South Africa is not a topic which one would classify as a rare topic of discussion. However, there are two types of crime, the first being the obvious, and then you have acts which at times, dance on the line of legal and illegal. They may not always be criminal but can be downright un-South African.
With the above in mind 1, 500+ directors of companies, who have been doing business with the State, have also been the recipients of the R350 grants during the pandemic—grants which were meant to assist people with no feasible income during a time of uncertainty.
In a statement issued by the Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke on Wednesday, 9 December 2020—the Auditor-General’s office had flagged the 1,513 beneficiaries for investigation. While she said it might be that they do not receive remuneration as directors, a similar trend was allegedly picked up in disbursements made by the Tourism Relief Fund. However, auditors were told doing business with the Government did not necessarily disqualify beneficiaries.
With this coming to light, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) claims all the flagged beneficiaries are being investigated. But it does not end with mere investigations as SASSA adds, planning is underway for a suitable debt recovery process.
As the matter is looked into, Maluleke further stats another facet of the audit into the Covid-19 relief funds found severe deficiencies in the procurement and contract management processes. In fact, the Auditor-General and her team found that more could have been achieved in South Africa, had the funds and initiatives been managed professionally.
While the directors are now being investigated, one needs to realise just how important the ongoing special audit by the Auditor-General is— especially as it looks into how the R500-billion for the health response to COVID0-19 and relief of social and economic distress was spent.
Not only was this substantial amount of money meant to be used to assist the destitute and impoverished people of South Africa, it was also meant to help the sick and dying.
Such is the importance of the initiatives which were put into place to spend the allocated funding, that Maluleke highlights how it is paramount we should not lose sight of the fact that these initiatives were designed and implemented very quickly, as a matter of emergency.
With this in mind and due to the urgency of the situation which South Africa faced and is still facing, Maluleke states accountability and transparency should have been foremost on everyone’s minds. This pandemic should have created an opportunity for the relevant systems to be fixed, yet it has let us down.
The Auditor-General claims her office will now be sharing information with the fusion centre set up by the Government. This is so that there can be further investigations into suspected COVID-19 malpractice claims while assisting in retrieving public funds where possible.
However, as the Auditor-General and SASSA prepare to tackle the situation, Maluleke said she was impressed with the response of the Department of Labour and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). Especially after the unflattering findings in the first report which dealt with the payment of Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (Ters) benefits, to people who were below the legal age of employment, deceased, working in Government, receiving social grants, or receiving other UIF benefits.
She highlights that the subsequent transactions following the audit look a lot better, despite things being far from perfect, stating the consequences were meted out to those who performed poorly.
Impressively, as of October 2020, she says the fund has recovered about R3.4-billion of funds that may have been disbursed incorrectly.
With investigations in full swing, what are your thoughts regarding 1,513 directors of companies receiving grants?
Share your views with us in the comment section below.
Authors: Quinton Boucher & Calvin Swemmer
Edited: Calvin Swemmer