President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the release of the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) final report into the health department’s R150 million contract with Digital Vibes, which recommends criminal charges against the former acting director-general.
According to the SIU, evidence obtained indicates that Dr. Anban Pillay, former acting director-general of the national Department of Health (NDOH) during the Covid-19 media campaign, should be criminally prosecuted for financial misconduct.
The department initially contracted Digital Vibes for the National Health Insurance (NHI) campaign in 2019, which was when Mkhize reportedly pressured officials to appoint the company for the contract.
The work was expanded to include communications on Covid-19. The firm scored R35 million before the department approved its work.
In respect of Pillay, the SIU said: “A referral in this regard will be made in due course. Furthermore, Dr. Pillay, in a letter to the National Treasury dated 11 May 2020 where he requested approval to deviate from normal procurement procedures, made numerous material intentional misrepresentations to the National Treasury in an attempt to obtain belated approval to deviate from normal procurement procedures. The obtained evidence indicates that he committed fraud in this regard,” the report read.
Furthermore, the obtained evidence by the SIU indicated that the procurement processes were irregular and the subsequent contract void.
The SIU argues that irregular expenditure amounting to approximately R150 million and fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounting to between R72 million and R80 million was incurred by the department.
On 17 June 2021, the SIU obtained an interim preservation order in the Special Tribunal for an amount of R22 million (R22 001 884.54) that was being held in a number of accounts.
The order was served via email on the relevant bank and financial institutions where the money was being held.
President @CyrilRamaphosa has authorised publication of the final report of the Special Investigating Unit into the National Department of Health’s award of a National Health Insurance media campaign and subsequent COVID-19 communications to Digital Vibes.
— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) September 29, 2021
Ramaphosa received the report and referral on the Digital Vibes matter from the SIU in early July 2021.
In a statement on Wednesday, acting Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale said third-party notices were sent to all persons or entities referred to in the report.
This was so they could have an opportunity to object to its publication or part thereof.
“This was done in the interest of fairness and in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), following a number of PAIA applications by persons and parties who wished to have sight of the report,” Seale said.
This weekend, the health department announced the suspension of health director-general (DG) Sandile Buthelezi over the matter.
Nicholas Crisp, the deputy director-general responsible for the NHI, will continue to act until Buthelezi’s hearing process has been concluded.
Buthelezi’s suspension follows former health minister Zweli Mkhize’s resignation in June.
Mkhize resigned after Ramaphosa placed him on special leave to answer allegations that he influenced the hiring of his close associates in the communication tender.