POLITICAL NEWS - Opposition parties have cautiously welcomed Limpopo Premier Chupu Stanley Mathabatha’s announcement on Wednesday to request the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate Covid-19-related procurement in the province.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it was concerned that the premier’s delayed response to the allegations of corruption on the procurement of tenders during the Covid-19 pandemic, could only suggest that his quest for the investigations could be mere lip service and not done in earnest.
Premier Mathabatha requested the SIU to specifically investigate the department of cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs (COGHSTA), with regards to the infamous Talana low-cost housing units in Tzaneen, and the department of health and education.
The DA has not only been calling for the investigation of these procurement processes for weeks now, but also requested Premier Mathabatha and the Provincial Command Council to be transparent in the way Covid-19 funds were being utilised, but all to no avail.
“We have repeatedly warned against the misappropriation of Covid funds and the serious implications it will have on the long term recovery of the province’s finances,” said Risham Maharaj yesterday as a spokesperson for the DA with regards to matters relating to the office of the premier.
Maharaja said Mathabatha consented to the proclamation of President Cyril Ramaphosa that the SIU must investigate “the whole procurement regime,” which in itself seems like a vague and insurmountable request.
“The premier further should have mandated all members of his executive to fully cooperate during this investigation.”
The DA said the department of health has been marred by numerous claims and reports of flouted procurement processes, use of suppliers not on the provincial database, undue influence and interference by MEC Ramathuba as well as senior management and corrupt activities around the province’s PPE contracts.
“That is why the DA requested Premier Mathabatha to place the MEC for health, Phophi Ramathuba on special leave, as we are convinced that her presence will cause impediments to the investigation.
“We call on Premier Mathabatha to act in good faith with regards to these investigations and to disclose all findings by the SIU. The people of Limpopo deserve nothing less,” said Maharaja.
The South African Communist Party (SACP) accused Mathabatha of being all talk but no action. The party said Mathabatha should have acted from day one against those said to have had a finger in the procurement of the PPE.
“His inaction has raised more questions than answers with some of us starting to doubt if Mathabatha was capable of holding members of his executive to account.
“This is very simple. All those alleged to have awarded the tenders to themselves, their families, friends and political juntas must be slapped with precautionary suspension,” said SACP Limpopo provincial spokesperson, Machike Thobejane said yesterday.
During a media briefing on Wednesday, Mathabatha said: “I have noted concerns about allegations of corruption with regard to the procurement of PPE. In light of this, I have requested the expertise of the Special Investigation Unit to investigate Covid-19 related procurement in the departments of health, education and COGHSTA. This investigation will also cover the Talana Transitional Residential Units in Tzaneen.”
Mathabatha said that in Limpopo, the provincial departments awarded Covid-19 procurements to the value of R728.4 million for the period March 2020 to June 2020.
He said the institution that awarded the highest value was the department of health at R548 million (80.28%), followed by education at R129.4 million (17.76%), with the rest of the departments and public entities awarding procurement to the value of R14.2 million (1.96%).
“We do believe our procurement processes have been fair, transparent and according to the prescribed provisions. All goods were procured from companies who are on the CSD data. Nevertheless, where there are doubts, the SIU is here. They will definitely leave no stone unturned in unearthing any form malfeasance and or corruption,” he concluded.