Trade union federation Cosatu estimates that between R1-billion and R2-billion has been irregularly spent to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) since the start of the pandemic.
In a report submitted to the portfolio committee on Wednesday, Cosatu said middlemen were overcharging the government by up to 300% for Covid-19 supplies.
In one instance, local factories that comply with labour laws and other regulations could produce cloth masks worth R10 to R16, depending on quality. The middlemen procures illegally or internationally sourced cloth masks, which are often cheaper to produce. The middlemen would then charge the government R20 to R25 for the masks, leaving the local factories scrambling for revenue.
“The state could have saved billions of rands by buying directly from factories, but factories — including many black-owned factories — are not winning the bids from the government,” the report reads.
As part of its recommendations submitted to the committee, Cosatu said all politically exposed people should be banned from doing business with the government.
It also proposed that political office bearers whose departments are implicated in graft and wasteful expenditure should be removed.
Other proposed interventions include establishing “rapid response courts” to deal with corruption. These would be based on the courts that were established during the 2010 World Cup to deal with crime.
Thando Maeko is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the Mail & Guardian