South Africa’s president has authorized the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to start probing allegations related to the misuse of COVID-19 funds, Cyril Ramaphosa told Parliament Thursday. 

“The allegations of corruption in the procurement of goods and services for our country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has caused outrage among South Africans and among us in the executive,” Ramaphosa said while responding to questions in the National Assembly.

Some of the complaints raised against officials and companies are related to the manufacture of face masks, the distribution of food parcels and siphoning funds fraudulently through supposed awareness campaigns.

“It is disgraceful that at this time of national crisis, there are companies and individuals who seek to criminally benefit from our efforts to protect people’s health and save lives,” Ramaphosa told legislators.

He said the work of the SIU investigations is taking place alongside the recently established special coordination center aimed to strengthen the collective efforts among law-enforcement agencies to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute COVID-related corruption.

He said the National Treasury has taken effective steps to tighten procurement regulations.

“These measures will strengthen the ongoing work of the Auditor-General to audit, in real time, all COVID expenditure,” he said.

The South Africa leader said the greatest defense against corruption in public procurement is to make the entire process more transparent and open to public scrutiny.

“In an important first step towards that goal, Cabinet established a ministerial team to compile and collate a comprehensive report of the details of all tenders and contracts awarded by national departments, provincial governments and other public entities as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic,” Ramaphosa said.

South Africa, the world’s fifth worst-hit country from the coronavirus, has registered a total of 618,286 cases, the highest on the continent.

The death toll in the country has risen to 13,628.

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