Heightened corruption fears have led South African investigators to begin a widespread probe of the government’s coronavirus spending worth $636.2 million.

In a submission to parliament, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) revealed that the amount they are investigation is more than double a previous figure that was under investigation two months ago.

South Africa has been plagued with corruption and mismanagement of funds in recent years. President Jacob Zuma was forced out of power over allegations of stealing from public coffers and while his successor President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to fight corruption, scandals continue to erupt.

While Africa’s wealthiest nation imposed one of the strictest COVID-19 lockdowns to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the government introduced an array of social welfare programs to cushion the resulting economic fallout.

That total spending skyrocketed to $636.2 billion in just six months raising fears that some of the funds may have been looted.

The Special Investigating Unit said it had uncovered instances where personal protective equipment was overpriced, procurement rules flouted and services not delivered despite money being paid, it its presentation to the nation’s parliament.

Most of the money under investigation was spent by provincial governments.

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