COVID-19 latest figures Saturday 8 August 2020

Corruption has an adverse effect on countries’ COVID-19 response and has been found even in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) Photo: AFP: Phill Magakoe / AFP

How corruption has crippled countries’ COVID-19 response

Transparency International reveals in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index for 2020 that corruption hampers countries’ COVID-19 response.

COVID-19 latest figures Saturday 8 August 2020

Corruption has an adverse effect on countries’ COVID-19 response and has been found even in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) Photo: AFP: Phill Magakoe / AFP

Corruption adversely affected countries’ COVID-19 response and South Africa is among the worst of the lot, according to Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index for 2020.

In the report, released on Thursday, 28 January countries worldwide have been ranked from 1 to 100, based on good governance, transparency, and accountability, with 1 being the worst score a country can get and 100 being the best.


South Africa scored 44 – which at below 50, shows serious levels of corruption. Corruption Watch says for the past eight years, South Africa has been stagnant on the issue, scoring around the 44 mark, implying that corruption in the country is far from being eradicated, even with the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in place and the end of Gupta years now behind us.


Transparency International reveals in its latest report that corruption is one of the biggest barriers to achieving the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals which include no poverty, zero hunger, quality education as well as good health and well-being amongst others.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, according to the global coalition, only worsened the situation with procurement processes for personal protective gear, sanitizers, and other medical supplies being flouted as has been evidenced in South Africa during the course of the pandemic.


In June 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko found herself in the middle of a corruption scandal when the Sunday Independent reported that her husband, amaBhaca king Thandisizwe Diko, had been awarded two PPE related tender contracts through his company Royal Bhaca Projects from the Gauteng Department of Health worth an estimated R125 million. 

The department was being led by the spokesperson’s friend Dr Bandile Masuku who was later dismissed by Gauteng Premier, David Makhura for his role in the saga. Khusela Diko has since taken a leave of absence pending internal disciplinary processes after the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) flagged her for not disclosing any possible businesses with government.

In the Free State, allies of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule which include the owners of an events company that hosts a major music festival in the Free State and an unregistered local car wash and shisa nyama as well as the ANC SG’s sons were found to have been awarded millions of rands worth of PPE tenders. Reports indicated that National Treasury was in the process of internally investigating the procurement of the tenders in the province.

“Corruption is prevalent across the COVID-19 response, from bribery for COVID-19 tests, treatment and other health services, to public procurement of medical supplies and overall emergency preparedness. Our analysis shows that corruption diverts funds from much needed investment in health care, leaving communities without doctors, equipment, medicines and, in some cases, clinics and hospitals. It’s a corruption crisis. And one that we’re currently failing to manage”.

Delia Ferreira Rubio Chair, Transparency International


One would argue that the one question that has been repeatedly asked throughout the process of South Africa’s COVID-19 response is, “where is the R 500 billion”

During Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni’s Medium-Term Budget Speech in late 2020, he dismissed allegations the entire relief package had been lost to corruption, providing a breakdown of where the money eventually went.

According to Mboweni, the R500 billion relief package was spent as follows;  

  1. More than R30 billion for health and other frontline services;
  2. Support for vulnerable households which is now in excess of R50 billion; 
  3. More than R40 billion for wage protection through the UIF; 
  4. Around R100 billion for job creation initiatives, which will now be spread over the MTEF; 
  5. R200 billion for a credit guarantee scheme; 
  6. R20 billion towards municipalities to assist them with COVID-19 related activities; and 
  7. R70 billion towards emergency tax measures.  

Corruption Watch has criticised South Africa for its current standing and presumed failure to combat corruption in the country. Corruption Watch Executive Director David Lewis, says public trust in the government has been eroded during this pandemic.

“South Africa’s failure to move above the 50 point on the CPI for nearly ten years is a damning indictment of the extent of corruption and just how damaging it has been to the country,” says David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch.