Phaahla apologises to the nation over Digital Vibes saga

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Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has apologised to South Africans for what he calls his department’s breach of trust due to the controversial Digital Vibes contract.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has found that former Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and his family benefitted financially from awarding the R150 million contract to Digital Vibes for communications work on the coronavirus pandemic and the National Health Insurance Scheme.

Addressing the media in Pretoria, Phaahla thanked the whistleblowers saying they were crucial in the fight against fraud and corruption.

“It [whistleblowing] plays a role in encouraging accountability, transparency and high standards of ethical behaviour in governance, in both the private sector and public institutions. This blowing of the whistle was taken seriously within the department and by other institutions. This stand taken by an individual, and by subsequent witnesses, has brought us to where we are on this matter,” says the Minister.

Implicated officials suspended

On Thursday, Dr Phaahla announced that action is being taken against six more employees in the Department of Health who were implicated in the Special Investigating Unit report.

Phaahla said the six officials will receive letters of suspension, with Director-General of Health Dr Sandile Buthelezi being the seventh to have already been placed on precautionary suspension.

“We have noted that there are serious allegations against a number of departmental senior officials, notably that of our Deputy Director-General responsible for health regulations and compliance Dr Anban Pillay.”

“There are six officials that the acting DG has to take steps against. By the close of business today, all affected six officials in the Department of Health would have been served with suspension letters. Dr Buthelezi has already been put on suspension,” he adds.

Health Ministry responds to SIU report findings and recommendations:

Act on SIU recommendations: Ramaphosa

On Wednesday, the Presidency called on government departments and state institutions to act on the recommendations made by the SIU report.

Acting Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale says, “I think what we expect is to see departments and institutions act on the referrals made by the SIU in all the places they have referred to. So it will be the case that people may still be in a position in the administration.”

“But this report contains referrals by the SIU of actions that should be taken against people with substantial evidence. So, I think our expectations are that all departments will look at this report, the referrals and act on what the SIU is recommending,” says Seale.

Presidential report: