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Minister launches SIU provincial office in city

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“I appeal to members of the community to fully utilise these offices and report all allegations of corruption”

The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Ronald Lamola during the opening of the SIU office in Kimberley. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE MINISTER of Justice and Constitutional Development, Ronald Lamola, said the departments that would be probed by the newly-established Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in the Northern Cape would be responsible for the costs of the investigation, so that the unit could sustain its operations.

At Thursday’s launch of the Northern Cape SIU office, which is situated on the corner of Chapel and Du Toitspan roads in Kimberley, Lamola said that municipalities, local and provincial government owed the SIU millions of rand.

Officials have been deployed from other provinces to start up the Northern Cape SIU office until vacancies have been filled.

Lamola said that local government was R125.5 million in arrears, while provincial government owed the SIU R98 million.

“National government owes R134.5 million and public entities have an outstanding account of R156. 9 million.”

The minister added that he would closely pursue the recovery of money owed to the SIU.

“The time has come for us to ensure that all accounting officers have it ingrained in their performance agreements that they must ensure that monies which are owed to the SIU are duly paid. Failure of which might lead to audit qualifications.

“We cannot continue as normal, an important institution like this needs more forensic investigators and accountants to ensure that we have the skills to match those with deft fingers in the state. Therefore, by ensuring that the more than R510 million which is owed to the SIU by departments and municipalities is recovered, this will enable full capacitation of the SIU.”

Lamola believed that the opening of the SIU Northern Cape provincial office would improve the turnaround time of investigations into all forms of corruption, the recovery of stolen assets and the implementation of SIU recommendations.

“We are pleased that the Northern Cape will cease to be the only province in the country without the presence of the SIU. This is another measure by government to strengthen the fight against corruption and maladministration.”

Lamolo added that the rate of reporting corruption and maladministration to the SIU in the Northern Cape was low compared to other provinces.

“This is understandable, taking into consideration that the SIU did not have offices here. However, this should be a thing of the past, I appeal to members of the community to fully utilise these offices and report all allegations of corruption.”

He warned that leaders who were preoccupied with the pursuit of self-enrichment at the expense of service delivery would face the full might of the law.

“They must not cause trouble or blame the investigators who are only uncovering the wrongdoing caused by officials.”

He pointed out that those who looted from the state should find themselves behind bars.

“Preventing and detecting corruption should be our collective priority as leaders of government, and, in this regard, we should not just relegate this responsibility to institutions like the SIU. We should demonstrate our commitment to fight and defeat corruption.”

Lamola said that during the Covid-19 pandemic, corruption and greed had escalated.

“Driven by greed, certain individuals in government and the private sector colluded at the expense of taxpayers. In some instances, we have seen increases of more than 300 percent for some goods and personal protective equipment.

“Some of taxpayers’ money meant to fight against the pandemic were regrettably lost to corruption. The impact of this corruption has been felt across all spheres of government. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the looting of resources meant to preserve the lives of our people.”

He added that law enforcement agencies co-ordinating their work through the SIU’s Fusion Centre handled 231 cases or incidents related to Covid-19.

“Thirty cases were closed after investigations and 31 accused persons are appearing in 14 criminal cases in courts across the country. More than 12 referrals were sent to various departments for disciplinary action for employees involved in irregularities.”

He indicated that the SIU aimed to protect public funds from corrupt elements within society and the public service.

“Those who looted our resources are called to account through the SIU – accounts have been frozen, payments stopped and government officials and some leaders were suspended.

“We have seen the pernicious effect of looting of public funds, resulting in load shedding, lack of access to water and poor public infrastructure.

“We will not hesitate to crack the whip where public funds are spent against its intended purposes or without adhering to prescripts.”

Lamola believed that ethical leadership, both in government and the private sector, was at its “lowest point”.

“Sweeping reforms across government are currently being implemented, they will contribute towards isolating corrupt elements. These need to be complemented by reforms in the private sector as well.

“Those who enabled the state capture in the private sector must not only repay the state, their conduct should lead to introduction of institutional reforms to preserve the integrity of many professions.”

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