The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has referred 131 cases of corruption and fraud involving government departments and state entities to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) for investigation. The combined value of the money involved is R3.4-billion.
Of the cases, 118 — a number of them high-profile ones involving state entities allegedly captured by the Gupta family — are currently under investigation; another 14 are still at the inquiry stage.
This was revealed on Tuesday at a briefing to parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) by the SIU and the Hawks, as well as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and its Investigating Directorate, on progress in several investigations.
The SIU investigates allegations of abuse of state funds in terms of proclamations issued by the presidency, with a recovery mandate; it also refers matters to the Hawks and other state agencies for criminal prosecution.
The unit has been central to recovering funds lost to state capture and the looting of Covid-19 funding since the beginning of a lockdown in response to the pandemic last March.
Hawks head General Godfrey Lebeya told the committee that the majority of the cases referred by the SIU were for fraud, corruption, money-laundering and violations of the Public Finance Management Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act.
A total of 50 cases involved individuals; 60 involved companies or legal entities; and 22 involved both. The majority of referrals (25) came from the Eastern Cape, Lebeya said.
A much-anticipated briefing on the SIU investigation into the R150-million Digital Vibes Covid-19 communications contract by the presidency failed to materialise.
Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the SIU had indicated that the president had received the Digital Vibes report on 30 June, but had requested additional information from the investigative body on 2 July.
Hlengwa said the presidency was not in a position to engage on the matter, because it was still processing the information provided and that the briefing would be rescheduled.
National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi told the committee that the recovery of assets stolen from the state through asset forfeiture was being hampered by a lack of capacity to conduct forensic investigations, particularly abroad.
There were initiatives underway to build that capacity within the state, she said, but this “is not going to be overnight”. In the interim, a scarce skills policy was being drafted to allow state agencies to work with private sector entities “to bring back as much of the money as we can get”.
Batohi expressed concern about details on active investigations being provided to parliament, saying an agreement needed to be reached about how best to do so without jeopardising cases.
The NPA had requested that names and other information be redacted from the reports tabled at the briefing, which the committee had agreed to do.
“We are giving them a lot of information up front about where we are with these investigations. This is a real concern that I have,” the director of prosecutions said.
Batohi said that some of the suspects were “‘all over, even in parliament” and, therefore, care had to be taken against alerting them to details of investigations.