Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head Andy Mothibi has raised concerns for the safety of witnesses assisting the unit in its investigations into the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) by state institutions.
Briefing Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Wednesday morning, Mothibi said threats to the safety of witnesses were among the limitations the SIU faced in concluding its investigations into alleged corruption involving PPE contracts worth R14.2 billion.
“It is very important that I single out these ones simply because we depend on these witnesses to bring evidence forward. If they’re not protected and ensured of their protection and the credibility of the process, our investigations are likely to be negatively affected,” Mothibi said.
He said among the steps the SIU had taken to ensure their safety was to conduct telephonic interviews and virtual meetings with witnesses, sending them interview questions which they had to reply and return.
Mothibi said the unit was also allowing witnesses to bring their legal representatives to interviews as well as protecting their identity and telling them to report to the South African Police Service (SAPS) if they feel unsafe.
Engagements were also held with the affected witnesses and they were advised about their protection in terms of the Protected Disclosure Act.
“To date we have really ensured that programme works and works well,” Mothibi said.
The SIU head also said that as of 30 April 2021, there were 4,117 PPE contracts under investigation. These contracts were awarded to 2,251 service providers.
About 40% of these contracts have been finalised, 54% are being assessed and 6% yet to commence.
Mothibi said the SIU wanted to conclude its investigations by August this year, but they continue to receive allegations of corruption involving the procurement of PPE.
“It’s important chair, as we have said before, that we continue to get new reports of allegations of maladministration and irregularities. By the nature of our work, we cannot close out the new reports being made.
“We would like to ensure that the significant part of these investigations or at least as of 30 April 2021, all of these investigations should be completed by the end of August,” he said.