South Africa’s response to pandemic hit by corrupt contracts

January 25, 2022 GMT

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — More than 60% of contracts to help the South African government combat the COVID-19 pandemic have been irregular, an official report released Tuesday has revealed.

The country’s Special Investigating Unit probed more than 4,500 contracts for the purchase of medical equipment and services worth about $914 million and found that more than 2,800 of them are suspected to have been corrupt. Additional contracts are still under investigation.

Releasing the report, President Cyril Ramaphosa lamented the extent of corruption during a pandemic.

“It is unacceptable that so many contracts associated with saving lives and protecting livelihoods were irregular, unlawful or fraudulent,” said Ramaphosa. “This investigation demonstrates our determination to root out corruption and to deal with perpetrators.”

He said that 386 cases have been referred for criminal prosecution and more than Rand 550 million (about $35 million) worth of cash and assets have been recovered as a result of the investigations.

South Africa has seen the highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Africa, with more than 3.5 million cases and 94,265 deaths.