SIU investigation clears SANDF of COVID-19 procurement irregularities


The release of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report on COVID-19 related procurement irregularities cleared the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) of wrongdoing just a day before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) will look deeper into a multi-million Rand offshore purchase related to pandemic protection for military personnel.

The Military Command Council (MCC) of the SANDF along with Minister Thandi Modise and Defence Secretary Gladys Kudjoe would have breathed a sigh of relief when reading the short section of Advocate Andy Mothibi’s 86-page report. The report was handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday and includes findings that over five thousand contracts went to three thousand plus service providers at a value of R14.3 billion.

SANDF involvement in questionable contracts for personal protection equipment (PPE) and other COVID-19 protection measures is dismissed in two short paragraphs in the SIU report.

They read: “The SIU received several allegations from the SANDF which were reported to the SIU on three separate occasions. These allegations all related to alleged irregular SCM (supply chain management) processes and possible collusion”.

“The allegations were investigated and it was found there was no SCM process nor any award made to these companies. It appears false orders were created by an external syndicate and invoices generated for payment. The finance division of the SANDF was vigilant enough not to make payment on these invoices and no loss was suffered by the State. These matters are now closed.”

The PCDMV meets for the first time this year today (Wednesday, 27 January) with one agenda item the multi-million Rand acquisition of Heberon from Cuba to provide COVID-19 protection for military personnel. The committee is scheduled to receive a report on the acquisition compiled by a ministerial task team (MTT) appointed by former defence and military veterans minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Not so fortunate in being cleared of wrongdoing regarding COVID-19 procurement was Minister Patricia de Lille, whose Public Works and Infrastructure department came under scrutiny for what the SIU report terms the “Beit Bridge border post matter”.

De Lille had 40 km of fencing adjacent to the only legal port of entry between South Africa and Zimbabwe re-fenced at a cost of over R37 million to keep possibly COVID-19 infected Zimbabweans carrying the virus into an already pandemic-ridden South Africa.

The fence was trashed in places before erection was completed.

SIU investigators found procurement and other irregularities “perpetrated during the infrastructure delivery process as well as possible acts of fraud by identified NDPWI (National Department of Public Works and Infrastructure) and border fence project service providers”.

Disciplinary charges, which had not started when the report was complete, will be monitored by SIU personnel. Evidence as regards fraud by “individuals and entities involved in construction of the fence” is with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for further action. At the same time civil proceedings, involving R40 million, are underway.