When it emerged that people were making money off the Covid-19 crisis, South Africans were understandably outraged. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) spent 18 months investigating Covid-19 spending across all forms of governments. They released the last of their six reports this week and it’s pretty bad. 😏

The investigations involved contracts worth R14.3-billion and made up about 9.4% of the R152 billion that the state spent on Covid-19 between April 2020 and September 2020, the Daily Maverick reports. And, of the contracts that were investigated, 62% were found to be irregular. 

Those implicated include ministers, mayors, MECs, captains and colonels as well as chief financial officers, directors and heads of department. 

The SIU has recommended government departments take disciplinary action against 224 implicated government officials. It also recommended that the prosecuting authority take 386 people to court and named 330 companies that it believed should be blacklisted. 

But how do we prevent these sorts of procurement issues from happening? We like governance experts Ivor Chipkin and Rafeel Leite’s take on this issue in a Sunday Times column

Procurement irregularities are at the heart of the misuse of public funds, and the system needs to be completely overhauled, they argue, recommending:

🔹An end to cadre deployment and, instead, a professionalised civil service like that in the US, UK, Australia, Chile and Portugal. We need technocrats in charge of spending taxpayer money, not party loyalists. 

🔹Strengthening the office of the chief procurement officer and making it an autonomous agency. That’s because we have a dramatic shortage of technical procurement skills, so we need to centralise it. 

🔹“A supply chain manager should be a prized position, attracting highly skilled and senior candidates who are appropriately rewarded… In the banks these are highly paid roles. In the government these fundamental tasks are left to junior officials for whom a procurement job is a career dead-end.”

Hear hear. 💪🏽

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 27 January 2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.