JOHANNESBURG, South African President Jacob Zuma said that the state's anti-graft agency, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), was owed almost 390 million rand ($30 million) by government departments and called on them to repay the debt.

Analysts often cite corruption and government waste as constraints to economic growth and poverty alleviation in Africa's most advanced economy.

Zuma, 74, has himself faced numerous allegations of corruption, which he has always denied. He has often said rooting it out is one of his priorities.

The money owed should be paid "without delay to enable the SIU to continue functioning optimally," the presidency said in a statement. It said SIU head Andy Mothibi, who was appointed last year, had informed Zuma of the debt during their first meeting on Friday.

No explanation was given as to why the debt accumulated or why it was now drawn to the president's attention. The SIU has a mandate to recover and prevent government financial losses caused by corruption, fraud or maladministration.

It was their first meeting since Mothibi was appointed as Head of the SIU last year.

"President Zuma congratulated Adv Mothibi and pledged his and government's support and cooperation to the SIU which is one of the key state institutions in the fight against crime and corruption," said the Presidency in a statement.

The SIU is the public entity with a primary mandate of recovering and preventing financial losses to the state caused by acts of corruption, fraud and maladministration. The SIU also assists departments with systemic improvements that improve service delivery.

During the meeting, said the Presidency, President Zuma said he was pleased with the continued work and successes of the SIU in the fight against fraud and corruption.

In particular, between 2010 and 2016, a total number of 69 SIU proclamations were signed, with 10 proclamations signed in the 2016/2017 financial alone, to investigate a number of allegations of corruption in the public and private sectors.

The actual value of the money and/or assets that has been recovered for the State and/or relevant third parties by the SIU is R22.5 million to date in 2016/17.

Since 2011/12, the total value of money that has been recovered for the State to date is R279.5 million.

In addition, and within the National Prosecuting Authority, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) completed 389 forfeiture cases to the value of R349.5 million and 326 freezing orders to the value of R778.9 million.

The unit also obtained freezing orders to the value of R238.6 million in relation to corruption where the amount involved was in excess of R5 million and recovered R136.8 million relating to cases where the amount benefited from corrupt activities was more than R5 million.

A total of R13 million was recovered in cases where government officials were involved in corruption and other related offences. An amount of R390.2 million was paid to the victims of crime.

"We are most pleased with the work of the SIU in the fight against crime and corruption. Certainly the results are beginning to show. I am thus pleased to have met the SIU Head to convey our continued support for this critical instrument of our State in the fight against crime," said President Zuma.

Advocate Mothibi thanked the President for the opportunity to meet and said he looked forward to constructive working relations with the President and all spheres of government.