South Africa is probing allegations of corruption involving 500 billion rands ($26.3 billion) relief fund allocated by the government to ease the impact of COVID-19, an official said on Tuesday.

Kaizer Kganyago, a spokesman for the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), said his unit received a lot of corruption complaints regarding the misuse of COVID-19 funds and has been investigating some of the claims.

“We have started a process of doing the COVID-19 proclamation and we are looking at the processes that will unfold,” Kganyago told state broadcaster SABC.

Some of the complaints raised include corruption related to the manufacture of face masks, the distribution of food parcels and siphoning funds fraudulently through supposed awareness campaigns.

In April, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that 500 billion rand ($26.3 billion) would be devoted to relief and economic stimulus measures to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, Ramaphosa warned that South Africa will begin an investigation into claims that employers have been claiming funds from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and not paying it to distressed employees.

The government introduced a form of salary protection as a result of COVID-19, using the UIF to pay wages three months to workers who have forfeited salaries under the COVID-19 lockdown. However, many employees complained they were not receiving the funds.

Local media also reported that 5.7 million rand ($335,000) in the UIF intended for 200 workers affected by the COVID-19 lockdown was paid to a single person. Several bank accounts have since been frozen in connection with the fraudulent transaction.

South Africa has the highest number of COVID-19 infections on the continent with 205,721 cases and 3,310 deaths.

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