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Corruption Watch has given the National Treasury until next week Thursday to clarify several aspects of the regulatory framework and measures that have been put in place for the Covid-19 emergency procurement plan, in order to avoid corruption.

Last month, the Treasury issued an instruction note in a bid to relax supply chain requirements in municipalities and state entities for the procurement of goods as part of combating the spread of the coronavirus.

This would allow government functionaries to bypass some requirements of the Public Finance Management Act and Municipal Finance Management Act when procuring goods, a development that Corruption Watch spokesperson Phemello Khaas said could lead to corruption due to a lack of transparency.

“It is imperative that all procurement, particularly in the context of Covid-19, is open to scrutiny and to monitoring by both government and third parties, including members of civil society, through its publication on open platforms,” Khaas said.

In a letter to the Treasury, Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis called on the department to provide clarity on the regulatory framework, including price checks on the transversal contracts for the procurement of medical supplies, including personal protective gear and ventilators.

“We note that there are no reporting requirements for the use of these transversal contracts. Confirm whether there are in fact reporting requirements, and how the National Treasury intends monitoring these contracts. There are no requirements for the publication of this information on any publicly accessible platforms,” Lewis said.

Lewis called on the department to explain how the list of suppliers was compiled. He further questioned the instruction note’s provision for discretionary emergency procurement. “It could be interpreted to allow institutions to procure items under the emergency procurement rules that are unrelated to Covid-19,” he said.

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of extraordinary funding measures totalling R500 billion for health care, vital municipal services and social relief, concern has been growing among civil society and political parties of possible corruption and looting of the funds in the absence of proper monitoring.

Treasury has given government institutions the green light to procure the Covid-19 essential items from any supplier, provided it is listed in the central supplier database, through obtaining three quotes whose prices have to be equal to or lower than the prices proposed by the suppliers.

National Treasury spokesperson Mashudu Masutha-Rammutle had not responded to questions by the time of publication.

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