President Cyril Ramaphosa told parliament that his administration would implement strict measures to bar political office bearers — such as ministers, mayors and MPs — from scoring government tenders.
Ramaphosa made the undertaking before a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, where he was presenting his new economic plan to pull the country out of the ravages of Covid-19. He said fighting crime and corruption was also at the centre of his plans to revive the economy after it was decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramaphosa’s promise is a major victory for labour unions and other civil society bodies after they pushed for political office bearers to be banned from trading with the state during consultative discussion on Ramaphosa’s new economic blueprint at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) last month.
Those who were opposed to the idea of preventing politicians, such as ministers and MPs, from trading with the state had argued that this would be a violation of their constitutional right to engage in commercial enterprise — but Ramaphosa has seemingly rejected that argument.
The issue of politically exposed people scoring government tenders has been under the spotlight for several months now after a slew of companies with links to politicians scored hundreds of millions of rand in PPE tenders under in dodgy circumstances.
Ramaphosa told MPs that a framework to bar politicians from trading with the state would be crafted and implemented soon.
“We will strengthen the framework to ensure that political office bearers at all spheres of government do not do business with the state and we welcome the agreement at Nedlac that all social partners will act decisively against corruption and fraud in their ranks,” said Ramaphosa, before briefly departing from his prepared speech.
“Now this is an issue which came up quite strongly at the Nedlac level, and it was most heartening to hear all the partners underscoring precisely this point,” he said.
Ramaphosa announced that a “joint rapid response team” had been established to clamp down on criminal elements targeting construction sites of bulk infrastructure sites who were “soliciting protection money from businesses”.
The police’s Lt-Gen Fannie Masemola has been given the task of leading the fight against what government officials call “the construction mafia”.
Ramaphosa said there would be a rebuilding of revenue service Sars, which was crippled during the state capture years, and that “significant areas of tax evasion and tax fraud have already been identified”.
“We are working to clamp down on the illegal economy and illicit financial flows, including transfer pricing abuse, profit shifting, VAT and customs duty fraud, under-invoicing of manufactured imports, corruption and other illegal schemes,” he said.
He lauded the recent performances of several other law enforcement agencies such as the SIU, the NPA and the Hawks after their anti-corruption operations in the past few months. The agencies nabbed several ANC-linked high-profile figures and business people over allegations of state capture corruption.
“Law enforcement agencies are being strengthened and provided with adequate resources to enable the identification and swift prosecution of corruption and fraud. We wish to assure all South Africans that there will be no political interference with the work of law enforcement agencies,” he said.
“The Public Procurement Bill will be fast-tracked and transversal contracts put in place for large-volume items. We will soon finalise and begin implementation of the new national anti-corruption strategy which will improve transparency, monitoring and accountability in government and across society.
“Through these actions, we will ensure that every rand of public expenditure is spent productively to benefit our people and support our recovery effort.”
BY Thabo Mokone