The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Special Investigating Unit (SIU) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to use advanced technology to curb fraud, corruption and cyber-related crimes. The partnership will focus on building the capability as well as developing digital investigation tools, digital forensic investigations and analysis, cloud and high performance computing to detect and eliminate cyber-crimes before they are committed.
Products of statutes
Both CSIR and SIU are statutory bodies with the latter primarily mandated to investigate a range of serious allegations which include, among others, corruption, malpractice and maladministration in state institutions, and to recover any financial losses suffered by state institutions through civil ligation. Similarly, the CSIR is tasked to undertake directed and multidisciplinary research and technological innovation, as well as industrial and scientific development to improve the quality of life of all South Africans.
The agreement aims to strengthen and enhance co-ordination of efforts between the two government entities in their fight against the rampant corruption and maladministration currently plaguing the country. In terms of the agreement, the two organisations would collaborate on a range of strategic areas, which include:
- enhancing data analytics and sharing
- digital forensics
- information and cybersecurity
- artificial intelligence
- distributed ledger technology or blockchain and
- cyber infrastructure support.
Fraud detection strategy
The SIU’s advocate Andy Mothibi expressed excitement about the partnership. “Our partnership with the CSIR is in line with the SIU’s strategy of detecting fraud and corruption early and having systems in place that prevent these crimes. We live in a digitised world and criminals are using technology to their advantage – we cannot be left behind. The expertise and technology that the CSIR are offering the SIU are needed in order to fulfil our mandate. We cannot fight crime alone, which is why this partnership is important to the SIU,” said Advocate Mothibi.
Contributing towards a capable state
His counterpart Dr Thulani Dlamini, the CSIR’s chief executive also lauded the collaboration saying it represents their contribution towards a capable state. Said Dr Dlamini: “The fight against corruption and cybercrimes is a major issue in South Africa. The work of the CSIR contributes to the creation of a capable state amongst other things. Through this partnership, the CSIR will utilise its research, development, and innovation capabilities particularly in the areas of data science, information security, block-chain and artificial intelligence to support the SIU’s efforts to combat corruption and cybercrimes.”
Recovering billion to state purse
The SIU, working hand in glove with the Special Tribunal, also established to recover public funds taken from the fiscus through corruption, fraud and illicit money flows, has recovered billions to the state coffers. According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, to date around R8.6-billion from unlawful and fraudulent contracts has been recovered. Celebrating its silver jubilee anniversary in July this year, SIU shared its successes in recovering stolen funds from state owned enterprises (SoE) and provincial health departments.
During Covid-19 pandemic, some provincial health departments across the country issued irregular and fraudulent PPE tenders. In Gauteng, the SIU found that the then MEC of health, Dr Bandile Masuku failed to exercise oversight and irregularly awarded tenders. These included a R103 million PPE tender awarded to Zakheni Strategic Supplies, awarded R139 million PPE to Ledla Structural Development and R24 million PPE tender was given to events Management Company owned by Mlangeni Brothers Events. Similarly, the Gauteng department of education was found to have unlawfully awarded school disinfecting tenders worth R431 million.
In the Eastern Cape Province, the SIU successfully reviewed and set aside a R10.1 million tender improperly awarded by the provincial health department for 100 scooter ambulances. In another PPE tender case, SIU investigated a tender worth R172 million awarded to Hamilton Ndlovu and associated companies by the National Health Laboratory Services. Not only was Ndlovu and associates ordered to pay back R158 million to the state but properties worth R42 million belonging to him were frozen and also forfeited to the state.
President Ramaphosa directed the SIU to investigate allegations of corruption, maladministration and payments made by key state entities such as the SABC, Transnet and Eskom. The SIU successfully won a court order to review and set aside a decision by the former board of the national broadcaster to pay Hlaudi Motsoeneng, its former chief operations officer, “success fee” amounting to over R11.5 million.
An Eskom contractor, ABB South Africa, volunteered to repay Eskom R1.5 billion following an intensive investigation by the SIU. This followed an overpayment related to a contract unlawfully awarded to it for the work on the Kusile power station project.
The Special Tribunal granted the SIU a preservation order to freeze R4.2 billion held in bank accounts of third party companies. This followed the SIU’s investigations that uncovered three tenders awarded to CRRC-E Loco Supply for a combined sum of approximately R25.4 billion between 2011 and 2014 to supply Transnet with locomotives.