Home Sickness & Recovery OPINION: Insatiable greed for public money in SA is deadlier than Covid-19 – Independent Online

OPINION: Insatiable greed for public money in SA is deadlier than Covid-19 – Independent Online

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By Douglas Gibson

South Africa’s sickness is not Covid-19. It is greed.

Written nearly 3 000 years ago, the book of Proverbs, chapter 20, verse 17 tells us: “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.” That seems not to deter the private sector fraudsters or those who feed at the public trough.

The pandemic is a national tragedy in terms of human cost and economic ruination, following the dismal economic situation ANC policies caused.

But not everyone saw the pandemic in those terms – there are many greedy people: especially the children, friends and relatives of the well-connected, who saw it as a golden opportunity to get their hands on the public money intended to help the sick and the poor.

The high-profile example has been the involvement in a PPE scandal by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko and her husband who describes himself as “King” Madikizane II Thandisizwe, “king” of the AmaBhaca. The Eastern Cape government has denied he is a king and stated he is the chief of two villages. So much for his company, “Royal” Bhaca.

What shocked, apart from the R125million contract allegedly awarded because of their connections to Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku and his wife, Loyiso, MMC in the Johannesburg Metro, and apart also from the excuse that the contract had been an “error of judgement”, was the unexplained inflated prices for the PPE equipment they would buy, add their mark-up and then sell to the Gauteng Health Department.

It becomes clearer each day that the emergency funding, bypassing the supply chain rules, is an excuse to pay money to the well connected, many of whom form new companies for that purpose, diverting as much money as possible from the poor and the sick.

Broad-based BEE has become a fig-leaf for further enriching a small group of insiders at public expense. And being a black female-owned company with connections gives an even easier entrée to public money, often without such things as competitive quotes, tenders or pricing by officials. This is rife at all levels of the government and in every state-owned entity.

MP Ashor Sarupen told Parliament recently: “We are seeing government officials act with impunity, ignoring regulations for emergency procurement, working with so-called service providers to loot coffers of the state, and even dish out government food relief in ANC regalia, when they aren’t stealing food parcels themselves.”

It is no surprise that ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule’s two sons are crack businessmen, each having secured contracts in the protective equipment field.

The president’s son, Andile Ramaphosa, great businessman that he is, having gained experience as a consultant to Bosasa (long after everyone knew it was compromised), has secured a contract to sanitise taxis. That might be above board, but it is unfortunate that he continually sups at the public trough.

MP and DA health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube has called on the government and all provinces to follow the Western Cape example and publish the names of companies awarded contracts; their boards of directors; the value of each contract; the service being provided and the status of the contracts.

Acceptance of this public scrutiny proposal would go some way towards countering the insatiable greed for grabbing public money that is part of South Africa’s sickness.

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