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Former assistant testifies how Watson consulted her on gifts to buy Mokonyane
31 August 2020, 12:47 PM

Former Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s personal assistant Sandy Thomas has told the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg that former BOSASA CEO Gavin Watson consulted her on the type of flowers and gifts to buy for her boss.

Thomas failed to appear before the Commission on Tuesday last week despite being served with the summons in April. She only appeared in the afternoon with her lawyer requesting a postponement for her evidence.

However a visibly angry commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, rebuked Thomas saying her conduct was unacceptable. Thomas apologised and promised to appear before the commission this morning.

She says she has worked with Mokonyane for almost 20 years.

Meanwhile, former Bosasa employee Bongiwe Dube told the State Capture Commission of Inquiry that she was told about a big order of meat for Mokonyane.

This is after former Bosasa Chief Operations Officer Angelo Agrizzi levelled allegations against Mokonyane.

Agrizzi told the commission last year that Bosasa used to buy Mokonyane large supplies of alcohol and meat for her Christmas gatherings. He said the company also used to cater for her birthday parties and the funerals of her loved ones.

Mokonyane was implicated in the testimony of former Bosasa Chief Operations Officer, Angelo Agrizzi, who claimed that Mokonyane received cash bribes among other things to secure lucrative government tenders and to shield the company from criminal prosecution.

Dube, whose duties included ordering whatever the kitchen needed – including meat, told the Commission’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, how she knew that the order was for Mokonyane.

“How I found out about it is the time when I was asking that we are closed and there’s a delivery which is supposed to come here and these people are asking what is it for and what must I do about it and then that’s when I found out it’s for Nomvula Mokonyane.”

SIU to interview Diko in connection with PPE scandal in Gauteng
31 August 2020, 9:32 AM

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) says it will interview Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko this week.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago says the interview will be in connection with the recent personal protective equipment (PPE) scandal in Gauteng, involving Diko’s husband, Chief Madzikane Thandisizwe Diko and Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku.

The R125 million contract was awarded to Royal Bhaca, a company owned by Diko’s husband who has already been questioned.

The ANC Gauteng PEC has resolved that Khusela Diko and Masuku be subjected to the Provincial Integrity Committee. Both have been placed on a special leave of absence.

The ANC in Gauteng has summoned Khusela Diko, MEC Bandile Masuku & Loyiso Masuku to explain themselves to the party:

 

The spokesperson of the SIU’s Special Tribunal, set up last year to investigate allegations of corruption, Advocate Selby Makgotho says, “Any witness can be subpoenaed, the special tribunal has the powers to subpoena any witness and in an applicable situation order that any witness, any documents and or objects that are in the possession of any party which can be of assistance of the special tribunal may be ordered to so surrender or submit those documents in question. It can also issue warrants of arrests where there is difficulty in terms of obtaining cooperation from any particular documents.”

Regret error of judgment

Khusela Diko, and her husband, King Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko have however reiterated that there was no corruption in the Gauteng Health Department’s awarding of  R125 million tender to the king.

They do regret the error of judgment that led to his Royal Bhaca company doing business with the department. The contract has subsequently been cancelled.

The news of the tender for the supply of personal protective gear during the coronavirus pandemic, sparked outrage from the public.

The couple says in a joint statement that they have never tried to hide their ties with the family of Gauteng MEC of Health, Dr. Bandile Masuku.

They, however, understand that it raises suspicion due to the impact state capture and corruption had on the depletion of state coffers.

In the video below, King Madzikane says the decision is unfortunate: 

Rural tourism has potential to grow the national economy: Mahlalela
31 August 2020, 8:03 AM

Deputy Tourism Minister Fish Mahlalela says the rural tourism sector has the potential to help grow the national economy. Mahlalela has visited Refilwe township, outside Cullinan in Pretoria, as part of promoting domestic tourism.

Minister Mamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane is expected to officially launch tourism month in Pretoria on Monday.

Provincial travel has been opened under Level 2 of the coronavirus lockdown and there are hopes that this will assist a sector devastated by earlier travel restrictions.

Mahlalela says rural tourism has great potential.

“Tourism has got the key potential of developing and creating job opportunities for people living in the rural areas. This is because most of the tourist attractions are located in the rural areas and therefore we want to use this next month to say, how do we leverage tourism to be able then to create job opportunities for people in the rural areas, how do we leverage tourism to create infrastructure for people in the rural areas?”

Meanwhile, the extended lockdown has been hard on the travel and Tourism sector. The restrictions on interprovincial travel dented recovery plans. This has been exacerbated by the continued closure of the country’s borders as a result of the deadly coronavirus that’s already claimed more than 10 000 lives in South Africa. It’s meant no revenue for the sector from international travellers.

In the video below, Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane briefs the media on Level 2 tourism-related activities:

‘Ramaphosa is battling some members’ reluctance to accept anti-corruption agenda’
31 August 2020, 6:59 AM

Political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga says ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa is battling power struggles within the party coupled with some members’ reluctance to accept his anti-corruption agenda. This comes as the National Executive Committee held a special meeting at the weekend.

ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte has confirmed that Ramaphosa and party Secretary-General Ace Magashule will soon appear before the ANC Integrity Commission.

Duarte says Ramaphosa has subjected himself to the commission to account for the source of the funds for his campaign for the position of party president in 2017.

Magashule will appear following an interview in which he said he would never step aside from his position over allegations that he was involved in corruption.

Mathekga says Ramaphosa might not get a second term as ANC leader, but he would not go out without a fight.

“Power within the ANC is still all over the place, even if he’s in charge of state institutions and so forth. Look at the way in which he makes decisions. You can see that the President is always careful not to upset the other factions. Even the deployment, it’s almost equitably sharded across factions within Cabinet and also in parliamentary committees and so forth. So for him, the difficulty he’s facing he might not get the second term of the ANC but wouldn’t it be better if at least he shows a fight on the basis of principle so that at least if he gets an early exit, at least it is a glorious exit?”

The video below, highlights some of the issues: 

 

In the video below, allegations of corrupt party leaders tops the ANC NEC agenda:

PPEs
Transparent tenders will cut COVID-related corruption
30 August 2020, 4:05 PM

By Karam Jeet Singh

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 23 July 2020 a variety of measures to deal with COVID-related corruption. Mere days later the media exposed that Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko – the husband of presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko – had received contracts worth R125-million for COVID-19 personal protection equipment (PPE) from the Gauteng Department of Health.

The exposure of public sector corruption involving politically connected individuals has become the fodder of public discourse and media attention, and the report triggered a series of events which led to the exposure of further connections to the Gauteng MEC for Health, Dr Bandile Masuku, and sudden special leave for both Khusela Diko and Masuku.

For a country aching for strong action against corruption, particularly in this time of national vulnerability, the action taken against politically exposed persons signifies step one in the reckoning of accountability. However, what was lost in much of the reporting is that the contract was awarded on 30 March 2020 – nearly four months before the Sunday Independent report.

The newspaper based its report on “sources and official documents” and it is evident that the story emerged as a result of inside information, perhaps a whistle-blower, rather than information publicly available or systems that are in place to monitor procurement. Given the serious consequences of looting of money destined for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, investigative journalism, while commendable, is a blunt instrument through which to monitor emergency procurement and ensure accountability.

In that address on 23 July, Ramaphosa noted that regulations had been issued to ensure that emergency procurement under the state of disaster “meet[s] the constitutional requirements of fairness, transparency, competitiveness and cost-effectiveness”. We have written elsewhere that while the system of emergency procurement does meet the legal requirements, this does not go far enough for an administration supposedly committed to addressing corruption. Proactively publishing information relating to the awarding of contracts for COVID-19 PPE and other goods and services should be the minimum of what we expect from the government, including the various provincial health departments and municipalities.

Transparency brings accountability

It has been well documented around the world that transparency in procurement dramatically decreases corruption. In Ukraine – where an estimated 20% of spending in public procurement had been lost to corruption – the introduction of an e-procurement system saved the country $233-million. The Ukrainian system enables the government to conduct all procurement electronically and, by making all transactions transparent, facilitates citizen monitoring of procurement tenders and contracts. Ukrainians have embraced this citizen participation: since 2016, more than 700 000 users have identified nearly 74 000 concerns.

It is a badge of shame for South Africa that, decades after the establishment of constitutional democracy, our basic systems of governance compare unfavourably to Ukraine.

Closer to home, Nigeria has also built a portal to facilitate transparent procurement. NOCOPO (Nigeria Open Contracting Portal), which is still in its infancy, has a specific Covid-19 procurement page where all pandemic-related contracts are listed. This has allowed journalists and citizens to analyse the details of such contracts and improve public knowledge and awareness of the government’s response to the pandemic.

NOCOPO was created through partnerships with Nigerian civil society, which demonstrates the benefit of a collaborative approach where the government recognises the role civil society and the media can play in monitoring public procurement, and thus in helping to identify corruption as it happens.

Corruption exposed when information is accessible

An example of how freely accessible procurement data can highlight corruption and lead to greater accountability is evident in the work of the Nigerian Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) and its platform Budeshi (“open it” in Hausa). By analysing data on funds allocated to public healthcare centres in 2016, the PPDC was able to identify substantial differences in the amount budgeted for centres and the amount actually spent, and to point out that identical construction contract tender amounts suggested corruption. The PPDC continued to investigate the suspicious transactions and the publication of its research led to Nigerian authorities launching their own investigations.

In South Africa, a significant development to improve the transparency of the government’s financial information is Vulekamali. A collaboration between National Treasury and civil society coalition Imali Yethu – of which Corruption Watch is a member – Vulekamali is an online budget data portal aimed at deepening public participation in the budget process.

The conceptualisation of this project demonstrates government’s commitment to transparency and collaboration in respect of budget data, while the work done by Imali Yethu is indicative of a willingness from South African civil society to work with the government to make its financial processes more open and accountable.

Crises provide the impetus for swift and dramatic change. We know all too well that public procurement has long been an avenue for looting. The exposure of corruption related to Covid-19 funds shows that, despite the president’s “new dawn”, this has not abated.

The examples of Ukraine and Nigeria show that making procurement information public is a relatively simple, but strikingly effective way of addressing corruption within public procurement. If the South African government published all information on Covid-19 contracts, civil society and the media would be able to monitor these transactions in real time.

The cynicism of the South African public that accompanied the announcement of the International Monetary Fund loan displays a deep distrust in political posturing against corruption. To regain that trust there is a thirst for a proactive response to fixing the broken procurement system, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Proactive publishing of procurement information would take the president’s commitment to protecting the public purse from mere statement to action.

We, as civil society, are willing and able to take up the mantle of monitoring public procurement. Mr President, please let us help you.

Karam Jeet Singh is the head of Legal and Investigations at Corruption Watch. 

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