The South African government is intensifying efforts to prosecute thousands of civil servants illegally receiving monthly social grants. South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa said that corruption peaked during the corona virus outbreak. He noted that earlier this year around 16 000 employees on the government payroll were irregularly paid the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant.

Additionally, 17 000 people both at provincial and national level, with other sources of income and who do not qualify for Social Relief Grant submitted applications in a bid to top up their salaries with the money meant for the poor.

South Africa Parliament recently revealed the extent of the problem showing how the government still has a long way to go towards instilling a culture of ethics in the public service.

Earlier in September, government launched a new Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit to build capacity within public bodies to institute disciplinary proceedings in cases of misconduct. The unit is tasked to refer corruption cases to government’s Anti-Corruption Task Team and follow up with departments to ensure criminal cases involving public servants translated into disciplinary cases. The unit will also monitor the conduct of lifestyle audits of public service employees, identify corruption and unexplained wealth.

Ramaphosa said the new unit had begun its work “in earnest” helping to identify public servants involved in cases related to COVID-19 procurement, the special COVID-19 grant and Unemployment Insurance Fund fraud. President Ramaphosa said his administration will work to end corruption and ensure equal focus on inculcating ethical behaviour among public servants.

The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic may have been perceived as an opportunity to continue looting from their governments and health departments with response by various governments being been marred by widespread corruption. Kenya was on the spotlight after the expose ‘Covid Millionaires’ that unearthed alleged corruption in the procurement of protective gear meant for defence against Covid-19 in Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA).

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