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SIU says R150 million the department of health spent on Digital Vibes contract to be recuperated

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has said that the R150 million spent by the national Department of Health (DoH) on the Digital Vibes contract will be recuperated.

The SIU said it was pleased that on Wednesday President Cyril Ramaphosa authorized the publication of its final report into the DoH’s awarding of a National Health Insurance (NHI) media campaign contract and subsequent Covid-19 communications contract to Digital Vibes.

Former health minister Zweli Mkhize, his son, DoH Director-General, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, his deputy Dr Anban Pillay, and the department’s CFO Ian Van Der Merwe are among those implicated in the report.

The SIU said it is now following up on recommendations contained in the report and that the matter has been referred to the Special Tribunal to have the contract set aside.

The unit said the R150 million will be paid back to the department, adding that Buthelezi, among others, has been suspended, while seven more department officials are expected to be subjected to disciplinary hearings.

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The SIU said it has also referred the relevant matters to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for criminal prosecution and that it hopes that all these subsequent steps following the publication of the report will be dealt with speedily.

The SIU said, however, the investigation into the Digital Vibes saga is ongoing because other evidence surfaced after the report was handed over to the president.

 

Political parties have reacted to the report, with the Democratic Alliance (DA) calling on the NPA to pursue criminal investigations and prosecutions against Mkhize, Buthelezi, Pillay and Van Der Merwe and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) asking whether monies will be recuperated and whether investigations will be done.

Some of the findings from the SIU report include:

  • Mkhize lied about not having benefited from the Digital Vibes contract.
  • R300 000 was transferred to Mkhize’s son.
  • R160 000 was transferred to a car dealership for a car registered in the name of Mkhize’s son.
  • Digital Vibes paid an amount of R6720 for repairs to Mkhize’s home whilst he was still minister.
  • That on 15 July 2019, Mkhize sent a WhatsApp message to then DG Ms MP Matsotso which read: “Hi DG. Kindly sort out contractual arrangements. Please ask for preliminary NHI implementation plan and draft communication plan by Friday from each individual, as discussed.”
  • Service Level Agreements (SLA) were only signed after money had been paid to Digital Vibes.
  • Mkhize went above Cabinet’s decision to allow GCIS to handle the NHI media campaign and then sanctioned Digital Vibes to take over this responsibility.
  • The department spent approximately R 125 million in respect of its Covid-19 media campaign, despite a quotation of only approximately R35 million for these services had been approved.
  • The SIU report found that Dr Buthelezi contravened provisions of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
  • The report also found that Dr Pillay contravened the PFMA, committed fraud and there was a recommendation for a criminal investigation.
  • The Department’s CFO, Van Der Merwe, was also identified for contravening the PFMA.

ALSO READ: SIU: Zweli Mkhize’s resignation will not hamper probe into Digital Vibes matter

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