'Keep a close eye on donated R50 million from UK government' – Corruption Watch


Corruption Watch (CW) is calling for tighter controls over Covid-19 money as South Africa receives a R50 million boost from the UK to government's Solidarity Fund.

After it emerged that scores of contracts and tenders, often awarded at inflated prices, were doled out during the lockdown to the tune of hundreds of millions, CW wants government to implement more transparency on who benefits from public tenders in the Public Procurement Bill currently before parliament.

The way forward is simple, the say: If we are serious about stamping out corruption, it is imperative that beneficial ownership disclosure is included in the Public Procurement Bill.

Beneficial ownership disclosure would not only allow for procuring entities to investigate potential conflicts of interest prior to or during the procurement process, CW argues, but will also allow the public to access this information.

"The publication of information in relation to PPE procurement has already revealed that tenders have been awarded to politically exposed individuals. Real-time beneficial ownership information, made available when tenders are submitted, will allow for intense and timeous scrutiny," its statement reads.

According to CW, PPE corruption alone, though as yet unquantified, is suspected to run into hundreds of millions (if not billions) of rand and will be detrimental to the country's efforts to recover from the blow that Covid-19 has dealt to the economy.

Monday's receipt of a R50 million grant from the United Kingdom comes as complaints to the Special Investigative Unit on the alleged looting of Covid-19 funds continue to pile up.

International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor accepted the donation on behalf of government during a ceremony in Pretoria. On receiving the UK donation, Pandor's spokesperson Clayson Monyela said no direct commentary on protecting the funds from looting was made.

"We would only make such an assurance if a question was put to us and there was no such question from the UK," he said.

Speaking at the donation ceremony, Pandor suggested that women and gender-based violence should be the next focus during government's Covid-19 relief efforts.

"Gender-based violence is the highest manifestation of sexist domination and it exists because patriarchy gave men an enormous symbolic and material power. This violence is a consequence of the construction of masculinity in patriarchal societies, she said.

"We are elated that Solidarity Fund recognises that the Covid-19 pandemic has bestowed an additional burden on the marginalised women of South Africa. When jobs get lost, normally women are the first to face unemployment. When households endure strain because of a contracting economy, women bear the brunt of societal frustration. It therefore holds true that to remedy a nation and to recover economic fortunes, we should invest in women."

The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised the need for increased international cooperation and a multilateral approach to solving the world's biggest challenges, Pandor continued, adding the Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed that the impact of transnational challenges may only be dealt with through multilateral responses, and through better interstate cooperation.

"South Africa and the United Kingdom maintain such Strategic Partnership within the Framework of our Bilateral relations, and we regard the UK as a reliable persona within the plethora of multilateral fora," she concluded.

simnikiweh@citizen.co.za

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