SIU driven to work faster

The investigation into the tragic death of more than 100 mentally ill patients after they were moved from Life Esidimeni facilities in Gauteng to unqualified nongovernmental organisations is one of the cases the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) will focus on while implementing its new strategy to speed up its work.

The cases the SIU investigates sometimes take up to six years to finalise, and the unit now plans to fast-track its inquiries so the cases can be concluded within a year.

The SIU has come under fire for taking an unreasonably long time to complete instigations.

Earlier this month, in a bid to hold the officials involved to account, as well as to recover and prevent financial losses to the state caused by corruption, fraud and maladministration, President Jacob Zuma signed a proclamation that allows the SIU to investigate the Gauteng health department over the Life Esidimeni catastrophe.

This week, SIU head Advocate Andy Mothibi said that:

- Offices in all provinces would be enhanced to allow for better synergy with the head office in Pretoria;

- The unit would “go big” on data analytics to be able to inform government departments and state-owned companies of the corruption risks they faced so that they could proactively prevent them;

- The SIU has signed a memorandum of agreement with the presidency and the justice department to ensure the proclamations of its investigations – which have to be issued by the president – are signed off faster; and

- He is speaking to the presidency about a way for the unit to follow up on referrals it makes to the National Prosecuting Authority so that it can provide feedback to complainants and whistle-blowers. Other referrals include litigation and disciplinary steps.

Mothibi said the SIU’s organisational review project sought to improve its business case and performance, as well as reassure staff about their career paths and opportunities in the organisation.

He said the unit prepared “a case for change” that was informed by global corruption statistics and factors affecting its performance.

“We then reviewed our value chain and identified areas where we need to improve, and we are in the process of documenting it,” he said, adding that the structure was last reviewed more than 10 years ago.

“We have realised that our regional capacity is not as defined, so you find disconnections between the head office and regional offices, which affect performance. We will be firming up our regional offices.”

Mothibi said that, since he took over in May last year, he had improved performance indicator attainment levels from 29% to 71%.

“I am happy to say that we have turned the situation around,” he said. “Part of the new strategy is to ensure that more new measures are put in place for further improvements.”

The delay in the proclamation process was highlighted recently after the Economic Freedom Fighters accused Zuma of delaying the investigation into the SABC to protect his political allies.

Mothibi said the SIU conducted preliminary work at the SABC as part of an assessment process to prepare for a proclamation request, which Zuma has received. The unit must wait for approval before it can begin the probe.

Mothibi said the signing of proclamations needed to be speeded up.

However, he added: “We do not expect the president to just rubber-stamp our requests, but apply his mind.

"In that way, we cannot pin him down to a specific timeline because, essentially, he must be seen to have applied his mind.”

Mothibi said there were staff members who were “unsettled” about the developments, “so we have experienced a bit of pushback, but we are managing that.

"It is unfortunate that some employees who have issues go to the media.”

When asked about a recent report that the unit had spent thousands on an “intimacy workshop” in which its female employees were given sex toys as gifts, he said the items from the service provider included things such as massage oil and body lotions, not sex toys.

“But for future workshops, our human resources team must ensure that they know what value adds the service provider will bring,” he said.

Mothibi said the unit’s new strategy would be submitted to the justice department at the end of next month, together with the revised annual performance plan.


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