Pillay's continued employment at DoH questioned in wake of Digital Vibes report

The release of the SIU's controversial report, which was authorised by Ramaphosa on Wednesday morning, has singled out then Health Department deputy Director-General Anban Pillay, saying that he lied to Treasury and should be criminally prosecuted.

FILE: Former Health Department deputy Director-General Anban Pillay. Picture: @LimpopoDepartmentOfHealthBophelong/Facebook

JOHANNESBURG - In less than 48 hours after President Cyril Ramaphosa promised a new way of doing things, a top official implicated in a scathing Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report on the Digital Vibes saga remains at work, implicated in fraud.

The release of the SIU's controversial report, which was authorised by Ramaphosa on Wednes morning, has singled out then Health Department deputy Director-General Anban Pillay, saying that he lied to Treasury and should be criminally prosecuted.

The report also found that former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize lied when he told the public that neither he nor his family had benefited from the Digital Vibes deal.

READ: SIU report on Digital Vibes

SIU report into Digital Vib... by Primedia Broadcasting

Pillay bore the brunt of it all, with the SIU report finding that he deviated from normal procurement procedure and often deliberately lied to National Treasury to make sure that Digital Vibes got the contract and the money.

Eyewitness News spoke to the Health Department's acting Director-General Nicholas Crisp about what action was likely to be taken against Pillay.

Crisp said that Pillay, who was still employed by the department, would have to be found guilty by a disciplinary hearing before he was suspended despite being singled out by the SIU recommending criminal prosecution.

"The reason for a suspension is something different - you are presumed innocent until you are found guilty in a court of law, so these are two different issues," Crisp said.

However, at the weekend, the department placed Sandile Buthelezi, also implicated in the SIU report, on precautionary suspension over his alleged role in the Digital Vibes tender.

OPPOSITION PARTIES WANT ACTION

Meanwhile, opposition parties are calling for Pillay to be arrested.

While Health Minister Joe Phaahla has acted against several officials, he’s yet to suspend Pillay, who is implicated in the SIU’s report on multiple fronts.

Despite having authorized R74 million in payments to Digital Vibes in only four months, committing fraud, financial misconduct and going out of his way to make sure the company was appointed, Pillay continues to have a job in the department.

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Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) deputy president, Inkosi Buthelezi, said that following the SIU's report, Pillay must be suspended without pay immediately.

"It doesn't say when people are implicated in this manner that they continue to do their work unabated, particularly this person because even when he was requesting money from National Treasury, he misrepresented himself because he was up to something."

Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow health minister, Siviwe Gwarube, said that it was high time that those implicated in the Digital Vibes saga faced prosecution.

"We are of the view that the NPA now has enough information and has enough to investigate the Digital Vibes four from Dr Zweli Mkhize to Sandile Buthelezi to Anban Pillay."

While the minister and authorities act against those implicated in the scandal, there’s a risk of a leadership vacuum at the Health Department as it continues to lead the country's fight against COVID-19.

Amnesty International said that failure to hold those implicated in the Digital Vibes saga to account would be of great disservice to South Africa and those who continued to bear the brunt of corruption.

Executive director, Shenilla Mohamed, said that government and law enforcement agencies must act promptly.

"The SIU report, which implicates a former minister, his son and friends shows that while many South Africans were busy worrying about the pandemic and other health issues, high-ranking government officials were apparently cashing in from the virus. It is shocking that even during a major public health crisis like COVID-19, grand corruption continues unabated."

Eyewitness News has reached out to Pillay throughout the day but he has not yet been available for comment.

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