During a visit to Kimberley Mkhize maintained that he had not personally benefited from the contract and dismissed the allegations as being a misunderstanding.
THE MINISTER of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize believes that it would be premature for him to resign in light of the controversy surrounding the Digital Vibes tender that allegedly benefited his close associates and his son.
During a visit to Kimberley and an inspection of the vaccination site at Harmony Home in Kimberley on Tuesday June 8, Mkhize maintained that he had not personally benefited from the contract and dismissed the allegations as being a misunderstanding.
Digital Vibes was awarded a R150 million contract by the Department of Health for communications work regarding the National Health Insurance where its scope was extended to also cover Covid-19 communications.
He indicated that he had discussed the possibility of taking special leave with the President Cyril Ramaphosa.
However, Ramaphosa today placed Mkhize on special leave.
According to a statement released by the presidency, “this period of special leave will enable the Minister to attend to allegations and investigations concerning contracts between the Department of Health and a service provider, Digital Vibes”.
“The Special Investigating Unit is investigating this matter and the President awaits a report on the outcome of this probe,” the statement said.
Mkhize said nothing should be pre-empted.
“We should not pre-empt anything. The SIU report is still on its way and there are still a lot of things that need to be done. I have fully briefed the President and as the head of the executive he should be given space to do what needs to be done. I had no role to play in the awarding of the contract.”
Mkhize condemned any acts of corruption and abuse of state funds and had advised that funds should be recovered arising from these tenders.
“The amount is R37 million but I cannot talk further about it as it is now in the hands of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).”
He stated that internal investigations into allegations of fruitless and irregular expenditure were handed over to the SIU as it was found that there were overlapping functions.
“The entire investigation has been handed over to the SIU who will guide the department going forward. ”
He added that he was concerned that the family name had been brought into disrepute.
“The issue arose during an audit query that was raised with the Director General relating to overcharging that was reported by the Auditor General. I recommended that a forensic audit team from outside should deal with the matter.”
Mkhize said that he had disclosed to the SIU, information that arose that some money had been used to fix the lights in his house.
“My wife was investigating this. We were all shocked because the official who was working on the system had been given money, unknown to us a former staff member ended up paying about R7 000. We need full accountability on this matter.”
Digital Vibes reportedly settled the cost of electrical work on the Mkhizes’ townhouse in Bryanston.
He added that he had also become aware that some money was transferred to his son’s account.
“This made me quite unhappy and we had to sit down and have a conversation that this kind of relationship was inappropriate and all these funds need to be returned.”
Mkhize stated that the matter had impacted upon him, his family and the department.
He dismissed the matter as being a “misunderstanding” or someone who was being “mischievous” and stated that he was offering his full cooperation to the SIU investigation.
“No minister signs contracts. I have never signed the contract. It was a normal submission where a service provider was appointed, a budget was allocated. The contract was signed by the unit manager and counter signed by the Director General. All the minister is expected to do is approve the communications strategy. It was about approving the strategy, it was a normal memorandum. The investigation team did not quite understand this. There is no way a minister can participate in appointing a service provider.”
Mkhize added that he had not been involved in any administrative processes.
He stated that he was awaiting a date to approach the integrity committee.