Digital Vibes: Health dept official Popo Maja released on R5K bail
Popo Maja allegedly received two bribes amounting to R15,000.
Health workers at the Nasrec Field Hospital for Covid-19 on 25 January 2021. Picture: Michel Bega
A Department of Health official arrested in connection with the controversial Digital Vibes tender has been released on bail.
Head of communications at the national department of health Popo Maja appeared at the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Wednesday and is facing two counts of corruption.
The 63-year-old has been charged for his alleged role in awarding a contract worth more than R140 million to Digital Vibes.
The company was contracted to handle the department of health’s National Health Insurance (NHI) communication work and later, Covid-19 media campaigns.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Maja was part of the bid evaluation committee, which assessed the different bids for the multimillion rand tender, when the contract was awarded in November 2019.
He allegedly received two bribes amounting to R15,000 during the tender process.
“The same day the committee sat, it is alleged that an amount of R10,000 was paid into Maja’s personal bank account, from the Digital Vibes bank account.
“A month later on 5 December 2019 an amount of R5,000 was paid again to his personal account by Digital Vibes,” NPA’s North Gauteng spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana said in a statement on Wednesday.
Mahanjana indicated that Maja has since been granted R5,000 bail by the courts after state prosecutor Phumla Dwane-Alpman did not object to his release.
“However, she asked the court to set an amount of R10,000 bail with conditions that Maja should hand in his private and official passport to the investigating officer, that he should inform the investigating offer when travelling outside Gauteng and should not interfere with state witnesses,” she said.
“His attorney told the court that Maja was already demoted at work in relation to the same matter and can only afford R5,000. He also told the court that Maja has been cooperating with the state since the inception of the matter, therefore he was not a flight risk.”
The matter was then postponed to 19 July for disclosure of contents of the docket.
Maja was sanctioned by the Department of Health last July following the investigations by an independent forensic audit firm and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) into Digital Vibes.
He was issued with a final written warning and demoted one salary level valid for 12 months.
Other department officials, Dr Anban Pillay and Shireen Pardesi were also sanctioned following their disciplinary hearing processes.
MISA employee bail
Another government agency official is currently out on bail in connection to Digital Vibes.
Lizeka Tonjeni, an employee of the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA), has been accused of allegedly accepting a bribe from Digital Vibes to help the company bag a R3.9-million contract from the state-owned enterprise (SOE).
MISA is a national entity of the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) and it’s accountable to the minister of Cogta.
Tonjeni was nominated as a project manager responsible for the appointment and management of the Digital Vibes contract, and all communication had to be addressed to her, according to the NPA.
During her time as the project manager, Tonjeni allegedly received payments of R160,000 from December 2018 until August 2020 that were not authorised and due to her from Digital Vibes.