Mkhize: Digital Vibes contract was irregular & wasteful, investigators find

The department addressed the media on Wednesday morning regarding a forensic investigation and a probe by the Special Investigating Unit looking into a contract worth R150 million.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize at a media briefing in Pretoria on 16 March 2020 on the latest developments of the coronavirus in South Africa. Picture: @NationalNhi/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said investigators have uncovered that the department's appointment of Digital Vibes communications company was an irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The department addressed the media on Wednesday morning regarding a forensic investigation and a probe by the Special Investigating Unit looking into a contract worth R150 million.

Digital Vibes was appointed in 2019 to provide communication services to government's National Health Insurance rollout.

Mkhize said the department's director general has reported the findings of the forensic report to Treasury and consequences against those implicated were under way.

“Once the director general received the report, he had to ensure that a copy was shared with the SIU. I, as the minister, also needed to ensure that a copy of the report is handed over to the president. This is because when this matter came up and my name was linked to it, I had a duty to report to the president and had undertaken to keep him apprised.”

Mkhize said the public outrage and anger over the Digital Vibes contract was justified.

He said the report also looked at his role in the administrative processes of the matter.

“In summary, the investigation has found the that the tender/bidding process followed was in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act. The process of appointing Digital Vibes was irregular. The irregularity findings range from the inconsistencies in the bid committees, to lack of disclosure of conflict of interest.”

Mkhize has reiterated that he will not be stepping aside. He denies personally benefiting from the contract.

“As a minister, my obligation is to declare any conflict of interest when it arises, and in this instance, I had not identified any conflict of interest. I did not participate in the company’s appointment process. I did not in any way influence the selection of employees or consultants of the company.”

However, AfriForum has approached the Public Protector to ask he step aside pending the outcome of the SIU report.

Disciplinary action is now underway against those found implicated in the awarding of the irregular contract of Digital Vibes.

"I can also confirm that the process of consequence management i.e. taking disciplinary action against all implicated individuals is also underway."

He said the legal processes to recover funds that they believed the department should not have paid had also commenced.

The forensic report has now been handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday.

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