SA’s big corruption investigations: Here’s what govt is doing to nail the Guptas and friends

The public has been watching keenly as several major state institutions have been implicated in tender fraud, misappropriation of funds, looting and corruption leading to a loss of billions of rand. Communities and the poor have been the hardest hit by the corruption as contracts to deliver sanitation, transport services, electricity infrastructure and more have not been fulfilled. What steps is the government taking to recoup the funds? Special Investigating Unit head Advocate Andy Mothibi, Sipho Ngwema, the spokesperson of the National Prosecuting Authority, and Advocate Selby Makgotho of the Special Tribunal sat down with broadcaster Tim Modise at a BizNews Thursday webinar to discuss in-depth how their respective departments are fighting corruption, and their progress so far. – Bernice Maune.

Covid-19 fraud and corruption

Earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa issued a statement that Covid-19 relief fund fraud would be pursued by the state. The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), paid out as part of the government’s Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) R23 billion to companies who were at risk of going under due to the lockdown.

Minister of Labour Thulas Nxesi has said that his department would crackdown on individuals and entities with an arrest being made in connection with companies that falsely claimed R5m.

The steps that have been taken to recover the monies were been outlined by prosecuting authorities. “We do have allegations from almost all of the provinces. We’ve got teams on the ground as we speak now. Those teams have collected documentation. They are looking and assessing all of those complex cases,” Mothibi at the webinar.

“All of those companies that are involved. So as we speak now, I’m satisfied that we are making progress. You know that when the president announced this, he said you will report in six weeks to the press. And so we are we are making progress such that we should be able to reveal tangible results,” he said .

Eskom – Gupta, Molefe, Singh and others focus of corruption investigation

According to Mothibi, the investigation into the extensive corruption at Eskom began in 2018. The state utility has been embroiled in tender fraud with the Gupta family at the centre of an intricate web of looting through Optimum coal mine and Trillian.

Through a network set up with senior executives, consulting companies, state officials and the Gupta family, R3.8bn was stolen from Eskom.

Defendants in a court case where Eskom has made a claim for R3.5bn, according to court papers, include ex-Eskom group CEO Brian Molefe, former CFO Anoj Singh, former head of generation Matshela Koko as well as Rajesh, Atul, and Ajay Gupta.

“We’ve got a specific proclamation signed by the president that enabled us to do the investigation. That investigation has been very thorough, let me just make this very clear,” said Mothibi.

On the court dates, he stated that the case was still at summons level.

“Well, we don’t have the date at the moment. It’s still at the stage where we have now issued summonses. The next step is that the parties will probably have received some summons. The sheriff has to accept them with those seven summonses and the legal process kicks off. The civil litigation involves, you know, exchange of papers and then the parties will meet. In some instances, it involves case management by the courts.”

We are moving. We are making progress. And I think I understand that people are impatient. As far as the investigations are concerned, there’s good progress that is going to be made – Mothibi

Estina dairy farm and Esidimeni

In 2013, a dairy farm in Vrede, Freestate was identified as part of an empowerment project to gift 100 black farmers with five cows each. The project quickly went south when the funds were redirected to the Guptas and select officials, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule being one of them.

The case has been sitting with the NPA for several years as efforts are made to prosecute those implicated. Mothibi has lamented that the case is still alive and ready to be taken to the next level.

“One of the complications with investigations is that sometimes you believe that you’re almost done. And then you get one statement that then leads you to have to follow up on the many other things. And sometimes you have to miss deadlines that we would have hoped to adhere to,” said Mothibi.

Further steps, in this case, consist of working with other countries to recoup money that was sent abroad.

We are moving. We are making progress. And I think I understand that people are impatient. As far as the investigations are concerned, there’s good progress that is going to be made and our actions are going to show South Africans that indeed we are making progress,” says Mothibi.

The Life Esidimeni group of hospitals experienced a scandal of catastrophic proportions when 144 patients died. An outsourced contract was terminated by the Gauteng Department of Health and former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu was blamed for the loss of lives. The NPA says it is in the process of recouping R30m.  

Transnet and Zondo Commission

The NPA has frozen R1,6bn worth of Transnet assets. Ngwema says the case is under heavy scrutiny with his team working around the clock to increase their prospects of winning. In another legal matter, an executive misappropriated R18m and a court order has been issued to get the money back from him.

The state capture and evidence thereof that was laid bare at the Zondo commission has been opened to the NPA, SIU and Special Tribunal. Previously the evidence was available to the commission only, the BizNews Webinar attendees heard.

“So now with that being opened to us, us being able to recoup information from the Zondo Commission, that will help us a great deal to make sure that many of these cases are sped up and we’re able to come to a conclusion as soon as possible,” said Mothibi.

Also read:Inside Covid-19: Desperation grows in hungry townships, but there is a way out; Guard of Honour for nurses. Ep 69

Three Eastern Cape municipalities and the Department of Water and Sanitation

The SIU will issue a nullification of contracts at three municipalities in the Eastern Cape to the tune of R130m, says Mothibi, with the case finalised by end of September. The Department of Water and Sanitation is under investigation for R150 million. The case has been referred to court for prosecution.

Watch the video with Special Investigating Unit head Advocate Andy Mothibi, Sipho Ngwema, the spokesperson of the National Prosecuting Authority, and Advocate Selby Makgotho of the Special Tribunal  – interviewed by broadcaster Tim Modise below.

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