At least 2 500 officials in the Department of Public Works have been found to be in conflict of interest when it comes to irregular procurement, with several quickly quitting their jobs when they were probed for alleged fraud and corruption.
This was revealed yesterday by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) along with the department when they briefed the media on outcomes of some of the efforts made to curb corruption in the department.
SIU head, Advocate Andy Mothibi, said their investigations looked at irregularities of expenditure, corruption and collusion around leases.
He said investigations found that a number of public officials had been guilty of conflict of interest when it came to procurement.
“This means you either have a company you have registered that is doing business with the state, or any other manner that creates conflict. As of this year, 2 469 employees have been found to be in conflict of interest. In some cases, those who have found to be under investigation have resigned from the department.”
But resignations would not deter the investigating unit from prosecuting any guilty party, Mothibi explained.
“In instances where officials resign, they have just terminated their relationship with the employer but they cannot escape criminality. We will follow up if we find criminality and will make sure there is criminal prosecution.”
The department’s anti-corruption unit, which falls under the governance, risk and compliance branch, has in the last four years investigated 252 allegations of fraud and corruption within the department.
Two hundred and twenty three of those have been completed, said Imtiaz Fazel, director-general of the governance, risk and compliance branch. Seventeen of the cases are at various stages while 12 will be referred to other law enforcement agencies such as the SIU, he explained.
“As a result of investigations, 255 disciplinary proceedings were initiated against departmental officials, of which 193 have been finalised. Of these finalised proceedings, some officials have been dismissed, received final written warnings, unpaid suspension and verbal warnings. But there is a tendency to see resignation by staff members who are under investigation before the disciplinary proceedings are finalised.”
Minister Thulas Nxesi said his department would heed the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa to turn the tide of state capture in the country as it was clear a syndicate of officials was behind corruption.
“It’s not just individuals involved but a syndicate of officials working with syndicates in the private sector in order to continue with this corruption. That is why we are relying on the SIU.”