Hundreds of South Africans have turned to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane after being denied the R350/month special social relief of distress grant announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa to cushion the poorest citizens from the Covid-19-forced economic meltdown.
The office of the public protector said it had seen “a rapid surge” in the number of complaints of conduct and service failure relating to the Covid-19 pandemic over the past four months.
“Service failure allegations account for the lion’s share of the grievances, with as many as 450 people having approached the office to complain about what they deem unreasonable grounds for declining their applications for the R350/month special social relief of distress grant,” said public protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe.
He said the public protector planned to meet Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu to bring to her attention the special social relief of distress grant grievances in a bid to find a speedy resolution.
“The meeting will be the latest in a series of Covid-19-related engagements with, among others, the ministers of human settlements, water and sanitation, co-operative governance and traditional affairs, and basic education, as well as the auditor-general (AG) and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU),” said Segalwe.
The special grant was announced in April as an aid to the unemployed who were not receiving any other social grant or the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits.
“In most cases, the complainants either allege that they were not provided with reasons as to why their applications were unsuccessful or that the applications were declined on the basis that the applicants were found to be recipients of some form of income or that they qualified for UIF, which they disputed,” said Segalwe.
“Regarding conduct failure and in addition to the previously reported investigations into alleged maladministration and irregularities on the procurement process relating to the R37-million Beit Bridge border post fence and the R30-million Gauteng e-Government information technology tender, advocate Mkhwebane’s office is looking into several other matters.”
He said in Mpumalanga, the public protector was investigating alleged tender irregularities in the awarding of a quarantine camp tender. It has been alleged that the Zithabeseni facility, which was given the contract, is dilapidated and a health hazard for everyone who is under quarantine at the premises.
“The complainant further alleged that there has been no provision for necessities such as food and toilet papers at the facility. In KwaZulu-Natal, the office (of the public protector) is probing allegations of irregularities in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) by the provincial Department of Education,” said Segalwe.
He said it was alleged that the department had procured the PPE at inflated prices.
“In the Eastern Cape, the public protector is looking into allegations that a lodge which is being used as a quarantine site for Covid-19 is owned by a member of the executive council (MEC). There is also the case of alleged irregularities in respect of the R400-million e-learning equipment (tablets) tender,” said Segalwe.
The public protector has also embarked on its self-initiated investigation into allegations of maladministration, improper conduct and the misappropriation of public funds by the Eastern Cape Department of Health in relation to the controversial medical scooters project.
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