Eastern Cape becoming the epicentre of Covid-19 Corruption

Issued by Vicky Knoetze, MPL
Shadow MEC for COGTA

The Eastern Cape is fighting for its survival, battling the deadly Covid-19 outbreak on the one hand, and the cancerous spread of corruption on the other. Not only is the province one of the epicentres for the Covid-19 outbreak, it is fast becoming the epicentre of Covid19 corruption.

While government pleads for residents to wash their hands in the fight against the disease, it has now come to light that various municipalities across the province have been getting their hands dirty when it comes to the expenditure of Covid19 funding.

With all attention focussed on the devastating onslaught on the virus in the province, the opportunity was ripe for some municipalities to make questionable transactions related to Covid19 funding. This includes:

  • The OR Tambo District Municipality Speaker received invoices to the amount of R 4.8 million from Phathilizwi Training Institute (see invoice 001 and invoice 002) for door-to-door activities telling people about the virus during level 4 lockdown. The Municipal Manager was suspended just five days after he refused to pay the invoices and requested further information on the methodology of the work done (attached). The Democratic Alliance laid criminal charges on Saturday.
  • The Chris Hani District Municipality was also implicated when there was an outcry over the excessive amount of R175 000 they paid for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) form IC Bane Trading which is allegedly owned by a politically connected businesswoman.
  • An investigation was launched into claims that mielie meal included in food parcels distributed in Butterworth in the Eastern Cape were infested with maggots. This after the DA highlighted the exorbitant pricing of food parcels provided to the Department of Social Development.
  • The Premier of the Eastern Cape had to remove Mioca Guesthouse in Cala from the list of quarantine facilities after it was exposed that it is owned by the daughter of EC MEC for Transport, Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe. An investigation was also launched into the Transport Department for procuring hand sanitiser at inflated prices.
  • Concerns have also been raised about the procurement price of PPE for schools across the province. Many schools have also received insufficient and sub-standard PPE.
  • The Dr Beyers Naude Municipality is believed to have diverted grant funding meant for drought relief in the area, to pay for Covid-19 interventions. The Auditor General’s report shows that the municipality could only account for R5-million of the R30-million received. The Democratic Alliance has written to the MEC of COGTA to urgently investigate this matter.
  • The OR Tambo Municipality Acting Municipal Manager has also laid criminal charges against the now suspended Municipal Manager for fraud, theft and corruption related to financial mismanagement of R168 million, which is linked to water and sanitation programmes meant to assist communities with Covid-19 interventions.

In many of the instances related to Covid Corruption in the province, municipalities are hiding by behind the ‘relaxed’ supply chain management processes and certain exemption from the MFMA to facilitate and enable the performance of legislative responsibilities by municipalities and municipal entities during the national state of disaster.

The Democratic Alliance will request:

  • The Premier of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane to establish a dedicated Covid19 Anti-Corruption Hotline to deal with Covid19 corruption specifically.
  • The Speaker of the Legislature, Helen Sauls-August, must call for a special sitting to debate the instances of growing corruption as a matter of public importance.
  • The MEC of COGTA, Xolile Nqatha to establish a special Covid19 – Financial Assistance, Monitoring and Guidance Team in his office.
  • The Auditor General in The Eastern Cape to second teams to every municipality in the Eastern Cape that have received qualified audit opinions with findings and all municipalities that received disclaimers and clearly demonstrated that they are unable to handle their own financial affairs as a safeguard for the spending of Covid19 funds.
  • The Democratic Alliance further requested that forensic audits be conducted at all municipalities in terms of the expenditure of Covid19 funding.

Corruption has become part of the fabric of local government in the Eastern Cape. Corruption, cadre deployment and maladministration have crippled governance in the Eastern Cape.

Now, more than ever, the role of a robust opposition extremely important in ensuring that public funds are spent on in terms of complete transparency and accountability and that value for money, transparency and accountability is the order of the day.