Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
1 Sep 2021
3:28 pm

Digital Vibes: SIU hopes NPA will charge Mkhize for ‘actions of criminality’

Molefe Seeletsa

Mkhize is accused of putting pressure on the Department of Health to hire Digital Vibes and benefiting from the irregular contract.

Former health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has revealed that it has found evidence against former health minister Zweli Mkhize that points to criminal action regarding the controversial Digital Vibes’ R150 million contract awarded by the Department of Health.

The SIU appeared before Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Wednesday to give an update on the Digital Vibes report, among other things.

The unit’s head Andy Mothibi told the committee its investigators found that Mkhize “may have committed actions of criminality”, as well as failing to comply with the Constitution.

“We say that [Mkhize] may have committed a criminal act because we have found evidence pointing to criminal action and that evidence was then referred by law to the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority].”

ALSO READ: Digital Vibes: Special Tribunal set to hear SIU’s application to claim damages

“The evidence will be evaluated by the NPA and we are hoping that the charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering that they dearly be sustained and charges will be returned,” he said.

The SIU previously recommended the NPA consider charging Mkhize and his son for corruption over “suspicious payments” they received from Digital Vibes.

Mkhize is accused of putting pressure on the Department of Health to hire Digital Vibes and benefiting from R6,720 in repairs to his home, which was paid for by the company.

Meanwhile, Mkhize’s son allegedly benefited to the tune of R3.8 million from the contract, which Dedani has since disputed in a lengthy Facebook post.

Approved budgets

The SIU report states that Mkhize may also have been negligent when approving budgets worth R132 million relating to the National Health Insurance (NHI) and the Covid-19 media campaigns.

Earlier in the briefing, the SIU said the former health minister approved two budget applications for Digital Vibes.

The first application was approved on 20 January 2020 to the value of R46 million (R46,939,550), which was 52 days after Digital Vibes service-level agreement (SLA) was signed.

The SLA was signed on 29 November 2019.

The second application was approved on 16 June 2020, to the value of R85 million (R85,502,500), which was 99 days after SLA was signed.

READ MORE: Mkhize to file application for review of SIU’s Digital Vibes report

Digital Vibes only started delivering Covid-19 communication services from 6 March 2020.

The report said Mkhize may have acted contrary to a relevant Cabinet decision on Digital Vibes.

It also found that Mkhize had failed to execute his function in compliance with the Constitution – including general oversight responsibilities in respect of the affairs of the national Department of Health and his obligations in terms of section 63 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

This then caused irregular and wasteful expenditure to be incurred.

The report also reveals Mkhize may have possible conflicts of interest in the appointment of Digital Vibes.

Resignation

While Mkhize resigned from his position early in August, Mothibi said the move would not hamper its investigations.

“As I have said, with all the other allegations, we continue to get the information even if we have submitted the final report [to President Cyril Ramaphosa] relating to Digital Vibes. There are still allegations that are coming and we are looking at that,” he said.

READ MORE: Mkhize’s son admits to receiving money from Digital Vibes ‘owner’

The SIU head also told the committee that seven officials, some senior, in the health department would be charged for their conduct pertaining to the Digital Vibes contract.

They will be charged for non-compliance in terms of the supply chain management processes and contravening the section 34 of the PFMA.