Home South African SIU says more allegations reported over Digital Vibes scandal

SIU says more allegations reported over Digital Vibes scandal

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Former health minister Zweli Mkhize stepped down after being implicated in the irregular awarding of the contract to Digital Vibes that was linked to people who worked with him at the department.

Former health minister Zweli Mkhize. File picture

CAPE TOWN – The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) informed Parliament that there had been further allegations reported in connection with the contract the national Health Department awarded to service provider Digital Vibes.

Briefing the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday on their investigations into PPE for Covid-19, SIU head Andy Mothibi said they had indicated when they finalised their report in June that should there be further allegations, they would provide a report.

“That investigation is still under way. Whenever the investigation is finalised, we will appropriately report,” Mothibi said.

Former health minister Zweli Mkhize stepped down after being implicated in the irregular awarding of the contract to Digital Vibes that was linked to people who worked with him at the department, the ANC and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department (Cogta).

The SIU found that the multimillion-rand communication contract for Covid-19 and National Health Insurance (NHI) had been irregularly awarded.

A report tabled to Scopa said Mkhize had approved two budget applications for Digital Vibes for the NHI communication.

The first related to R46,939,550 and was approved in January 2020; another for R85,502,500 was approved in June 2020.

Mothibi said civil litigation was under way and was being conducted according to the rules of the Special Tribunal to recover all the money.

The SIU report showed that the unit identified about R22 million contained in several bank accounts from cash flows from the Digital Vibes bank account.

The SIU was granted an interim preservation order of interdict for R22,001,884.54 in June.

In July, the SIU filed its review application against Digital Vibes and 29 respondents to review and set aside the two contracts that were awarded by the department, and set out to recover the full amount of approximately R150m paid out under the contract.

“Thus far, the SIU has received a total of R12,179,429.90 in refunds from, or on behalf of, the respondents.”

Mothibi said “various civil litigation” had been instituted.

Mkhize is challenging the report. “It is a subject of review. We are defending that matter,” he said.

Mothibi said there were other persons who had also challenged the SIU’s report in October.

The report showed that Ndabezinhle Sibiya brought an application to interdict the unit and four others from publishing allegedly defamatory statements about him, and claimed damages of R500,000.

The SIU had served its notice to oppose the application on October 20, and a case management meeting was held at the Special Tribunal on November 9.

“On November 11, Mr Sibiya withdrew his application in the Special Tribunal and tendered costs.”

Mothibi said the SIU had also instituted two joinder applications.

One relates to department official Patricia Ngobese, after the SIU found evidence that she received R6,000 from Digital Vibes, where a stamp with her name was used to process R69,428,952 in payments to the service provider.

“This joinder application was granted by the Special Tribunal on October 20, 2021,” reads the report.

Another joinder application involved All-Out Trading, Tusonke Farming, Azwakele Trading and Projects, Sithokozile Khalipele Mkhize, Cedar Falls Properties and Sirela Trading for indirect payments from Digital Vibes.

“This second joinder application is being opposed,” reads the report. The SIU said it had filed a notice to amend its notice of motion to seek relief from the respondents cited in the two joinder applications.

The report stated that seven referrals were made to the department for disciplinary processes.

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