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SIU keeps watchful eye on state assets

Advocate Andy Mothibi’s role as the head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is a pivotal one in the fight against fraud, corruption and the maladministration of state institutions, assets and public money.

Established in 1996, the SIU also enforces anti-corruption legislation and encourages good governance practices within state institutions.

Mothibi was appointed head of the SIU in May 2016.

As head of the SIU, one of the key law–enforcement agencies under the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, he is responsible for determining the procedure to be followed in conducting an investigation; and charging and recovering fees and expenses from a state institution for anything done in contravention of the SIU Act of 1996, as amended.

Mothibi also provides strategic leadership in the methodology of investigations and ensures the implementation of the SIU-approved structure and the allocation of resources to implement its strategy.

Following his successful career, Mothibi is more than up for the task. He served as a public prosecutor and magistrate before joining the then Department of Finance. He has also held top positions at the South African Revenue Service (SARS), South African Airways, Nedbank, Standard Bank, Medscheme Holdings and the AfroCentric Group.

Role of the SIU

The role of the SIU is to investigate allegations and collect evidence regarding acts of fraud, corruption and maladministration or omissions related to investigations to institute civil proceedings for the recovery of losses suffered by the state.

It also plays a critical role in the prevention of future losses.

President Cyril Ramaphosa established a SIU Special Tribunal in February 2019, to fast-track the recovery of funds lost to the state from corruption or irregular spending. In these matters the SIU would ordinarily have gone the civil litigation route to have government contracts declared invalid or set aside.

In November, the SIU’s Special Tribunal received its first batch of cases to commence with civil proceedings against government departments and state organs to recover billions looted from the state. The value of cases ready for adjudication and recovery stands at R14.7 billion.

Mothibi said the SIU’s governance committee is also keeping a close eye on the Commission of Inquiry into Allgeations of State Capture, and is analysing testimony to determine if anything falls within its processes. “If anything falls within our processes we will apply for a Presidential proclamation. If granted, we will ensure that people face the consequences of their actions,” he explained.

Anti-corruption Task Team

The SIU is part of the multi-agency approach that includes the Hawks, National Prosecuting Authority, SARS and other corruption fighting agencies. This is called the Anti-corruption Task Team (ACTT).

The task team’s primary mandate is to successfully detect, investigate and prosecute cases of alleged corruption.

As part of its efforts in the ACTT, the SIU embarked on an intensive exercise to conduct a Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA), focussing on high-risk sectors that are vulnerable to fraud and corruption.

“The health sector was identified as one of the vulnerable sectors that requires immediate attention,” said Mothibi.

The CRA process revealed key vulnerabilities in the health system, including doctor registration irregularities, medical aid fraud, fictitious claims related to doctors’ negligence in public hospitals, regulatory weaknesses in health sector compliance enforcement, pharmaceutical companies collusion, non-compliance with medical waste disposal and procurement irregularities.

“The common root cause in all of the key vulnerabilities is collusion amongst stakeholders, hence the key mitigation plan identified through the CRA is a multi-sector collaboration – the Health Sector Anti-corruption Forum (HSACF), which comprises health sector regulators, law–enforcement agencies, civil society and the public and private sectors,” said Mothibi.

“The main objective of the HSACF is to collaborate with various stakeholders in the fight against fraud and corruption, and identify areas of cooperation to enhance the prevention, detection and prosecution of fraud and corruption in the health system,” he added.

Mothibi explained that vulnerable sectors are those that have high vulnerability to the manifestation of corrupt activities that could open up the development of the country or functioning of government to potential exploitation.

“The SIU has also identified other sectors that are vulnerable to corruption, including armaments, mining, border management, SMMEs, information communication technology, education, water, sports and recreation, financial, tobacco and liquor, transport, energy, real estate, local government, construction and state-owned enterprises,” he added.

The SIU’s investigations are determined by the President, through the signing of a proclamation as stated in the SIU Act 74 of 1996. Any member of the public can also contact the SIU to report fraud and corruption.

“Upon receiving complaints or allegations, the SIU conducts an assessment of the allegation to establish whether it falls within the ambit of the SIU Act and, if so, whether sufficient information exists to justify the issuing of a proclamation by the President, mandating the SIU to conduct an investigation,” Mothibi explained.

International Anti-corruption Day

International Anti-corruption Day takes place annually on 9 December, in recognition of the United Nations Convention against Corruption which was signed in Mexico in 2003.

“South Africa was one of over 120 countries that met in Mexico to witness the signing ceremony,” said Mothibi.

The day provides an opportunity for political leaders, governments, legal bodies and lobby groups to join forces against corruption. “The SIU is striving to build public trust and confidence in the anti-corruption fight. We pledge to do our part in bringing down corruption walls,” said Mothibi.

He added that the public service must uphold the highest standards of integrity and ensure that appointments are driven by merit. “Public servants and elected officials must be guided by ethics, transparency and accountability. They must have integrity and lead by example; educate themselves and others about the dangers of corruption; and become anti-corruption advocates, by forming groups in their organisations and communities.”

Mothibi stressed that corruption in the private sector also falls under the watchful eye of the SIU. “We channel the same process of recovery in the private sector as we do the public sector,” he said.

“The private sector also has a crucial role. Good behaviour in good business. Business groups can convert anti- corruption action into firm support for sustainable development. I call on everyone to help end corruption and come together for global fairness and equity. We can no longer afford or tolerate corruption,” he added.

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