3 health dept senior officials found guilty for signing off Digital Vibes tender

Deputy-director general Anban Pillay, head of communications Popo Maja and now former chief of staff Shireen Pardesi were suspended last year pending investigations into the R150 million contract.

Picture: andreypopov/123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG - Three senior officials in the Department of Health have been found guilty of breaching the Public Finance Management Act during the awarding of the controversial Digital Vibes tender.

Deputy-director general Anban Pillay, head of communications Popo Maja and now former chief of staff Shireen Pardesi were suspended last year pending investigations into the R150 million contract.

The tender was issued in 2020 and was meant to assist in publicising crucial information on the National Health Insurance and the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, information uncovered by the Special Investigating Unit showed that the funds were used for the personal benefit of politicians, business people, their friends and relatives.

Former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was forced to resign after an expose of the Digital Vibes tender scandal, which allegedly benefited his family and friends.

The national health department has now punished three senior officials for signing off on the contract despite irregularities.

"Dr Anban Pillay shall receive a final written warning valid for a period of 15 months and a suspension without pay for a period of three months - which will be followed by a salary level demotion for a period of 12 months.

"Mr Popo Maja shall receive a final written warning valid for a period of 12 months, together with a salary level demotion for a period of 12 months," health department spokesperson Foster Mohale explained.

Mohale said Pardesi proposed that she be allowed to resign from the department with immediate effect and that request was agreed to.

NO FURTHER ACTION AGAINST PARDESI

The health department said it will not take no further action against Pardesi because she resigned during disciplinary proceedings against her.

The department said it considered that Pillay, Maja and Pardesi were first-time offenders during the issuing of sanctions against them for their alleged role in the digital vibes tender scandal.

The department’s spokesperson Foster Mohale: “There was no evidence of docking the salary of anyone precisely because there was no sufficient evidence that they financially benefited from the contract.”

Pillay will receive a final written warning valid for 15 months and suspension without pay for three months, which will be followed by a salary level demotion for a period of 12 months.

Maja will receive a final written warning valid for 12 months and a salary level demotion for a period of 12 months.

Pardesi has been allowed to resign with the department confirming that it has concluded its consequence management process against the three officials.