Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has denied any involvement in the awarding of an irregular multi-million-rand contract by his department.
This after a Special Investigating Unit probe found that the Health Department’s dealings with communications company, Digital Vibes, were irregular.
It follows newspaper reports that the Department had paid Digital Vibes R150-million for services related to the National Health Insurance and the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mkhize’s former personal spokesperson Tahera Mather and former personal assistant Naadhira Mitha are reported to control the company, although the two are not listed as directors.
Speaking during a virtual media briefing, Mkhize said: “I am also aware that the key narrative has been that this contract was awarded to my associates and thus inferring that I may have used inference in the awarding of this contract to the said company. I also do not regard any of these individuals whose names have been mentioned publicly as personal friends but they are certainly my comrades. I have worked with them in the ordinary cause of my political or official duties and this is no unusual. I did not participate in the company’s appointment process or influence the selection of employees or consultants of the company. Even at a departmental level, the minister is only informed once the whole procurement process has been concluded.”
Mkhize says the monies paid to Digital Vibes were found to be fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
“In summary, the investigation has found that the tender bidding process was in contravention of the Finance Management Act. The process of appointing Digital Vibes was irregular – ranging from inconsistencies in the bid committees to lack of disclosure of conflict of interests. The investigators have found that an amount of some R37-million, paid to DV, constitutes fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The investigators, therefore, concluded that the appointment of DV was irregular and the R150-million that was paid to DV was irregular expenditure.”
He further says disciplinary action is being taken against Health Department employees implicated in the saga.
“I can also confirm that the process of consequence management, which is taking disciplinary action against all implicated individuals, is also underway. I can confirm that the legal processes to recover the funds that the department should not have paid have also commenced. We wish to inform the public that the investigation is still ongoing over the department’s being overcharged for services provided by DV and quantify it.”
Public Briefing on the Investigations into the Digital Vibes Contract: