Cape Town - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has excused himself from briefing the portfolio committee on the departmental investigation into the contracts awarded to service provider Digital Vibes on Friday morning due to legal advice.
This was the word from health portfolio committee chairperson Sibongiseni Dhlomo when he opened the meeting.
Dhlomo said he has been in talks with Mkhize and spoke to him last night.
He also said Mkhize said he had been advised because of the investigation in his department that it would be incorrect to lead the delegation briefing the committee.
“We will have the director-general to explain and take us through this report. The minister is unable to be here, legally advised,” Dhlomo said.
“We accept that the minister will not attend the meeting,” he said.
However, the governing party said it was of the view that since the matter was reported to SAPS by the DA, it was sub judice and the director-general was a factor in the case opened in Cape Town.
ANC MP Tshilidzi Bethuel Munyai said the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into the Digital Vibes was inconclusive.
“The minister and ministry can’t come and report on the matter. The SIU report is before the president. What the director-general says may be used against him in court of law,” Munyai said.
DA MP Siviwe Gwarube said matters were sub judice when they were before court.
Gwarube said the matter was being investigated by the police and SIU.
“It is a technical matter to be noted carefully” she said.
Gwarube also said despite the report on Digital Vibes, there was a report done by the department and legal opinion obtained by the director-general as well as declaration by the Auditor-General around the contract’s irregularity.
“We discuss what the department investigation revealed and the director-general tells us the status of the internal investigation,” she said.
Dhlomo seemed to concur with the DA saying Mkhize had alluded to the department’s report into the Digital Vibes contract when he briefed the media.
“That is the part we want the director-general to take us through,” he said.
Freedom Front Plus MP Philip van Staden disputed that the matter was sub judice as it was not before the courts.
“We must get a view from the director-general of what is the newest information on the case,” he said before asking if the parliamentary legal services could advise on the way forward.
EFF MP Naledi Chirwa said it was important to discuss any corruption-related report and there have been countless times similar reports discussed by the committee.
“Now in respect to the minister, people can’t do their job,” Chirwa said.
She also said they could not be held at ransom when Mkhize was in a dungeon pertaining to corruption.
Chirwa asked why the principle was changed to cushion Mkhize.
She said the department was not doing them a favour by briefing them and that it was obliged.
DA MP Lindy Wilson echoed sentiments that the Digital Vibes contract was not before court and that the director-general had agreed to brief the meeting proving it was sub judice.
“We must remember one thing that we are not accountable to the minister and director. They are accountable to us. We must get the report and we must get it today,” Wilson said.