SIU freezes accounts of businesses fingered in irregular PPE contracts

National Director of Public Prosecutions, Adv Shamila Batohi. Picture: Bongani Shilubane / African News Agency / (ANA)

The general consensus before parliament was that there was a need for drastic action to ensure those implicated landed in orange jumpsuits.

As the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) tabled strategies to bring those facing allegations of corruption in the procurement of goods and services sourced for the purpose of combating Covid-19, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has announced that it has obtained a court order to freeze accounts of businesses linked to alleged irregular Gauteng PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) contracts.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said probing about 160 companies in Gauteng alone led the unit to suspicious activity in a bank account, where an amount of R38 million was sent to an account of one of the companies.

Tracking some of the bank accounts led to the R38-million find. The amount, according to Kganyago, was spread out to all the companies being frozen to date.

“Following the money, we found the companies where the money was sent to. We asked the financial Intelligence Centre to freeze the accounts.”

This comes as Scopa alongside the ministerial committee, appointed to probe alleged looting of Covid-19 funds, announced that courts would be well capacitated as a solid blueprint in combating reported corruption.

Ministers in the committee, which included Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, Police Minister Bheki Cele, Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu, and the National Prosecuting Authority’s Shamila Batohi addressed parliament in agreement that the country need to see people in “orange jumpsuits”.

Batohi, highlighting that capacity was pivotal to ease the backlog in courts, said the NPA would be appointing special prosecutors for the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court, which were expected to ease the load.

Noting the importance of the Inter-Ministerial Committee, she mentioned how if proper assessments were identified in various departments prior, the country would not be facing the current issue of corruption.

“That has to be the starting point,” she said, calling for speed and impact going forward.

Mchunu said it was clear that Covid-19 assistance was abused and money would be spent to deal with the fraud and corruption which should not have taken place.

A general consensus was that there would be no interference between law agencies and the current twelve courts available would be capacitated to ease the backlog of cases currently before the court.

Sars also pointed out that to win the battle against corruption, tax compliance was necessary and the revenue service would tap into those contracts.

Sars intends to strengthen artificial intelligence in combating corruption after it noted that around 139 companies were fingered for tax evasion.

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