Former minister of Health Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Former minister of Health Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Former minister Zweli Mkhize likely to face criminal charges for Digital Vibes contract

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Sep 2, 2021

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Cape Town - It remains to be seen if former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize will face any charges or be prosecuted.

This comes as the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) on Wednesday conceded that Mkhize could have committed crime in the R50 million communications contract the Health Department previously awarded to service provider, Digital Vibes.

Briefing the Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Wednesday, SIU head Andy Mothibi said the corruption-busting unit continued to obtain information in the matter even after it recently submitted its final report to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“There are still allegations that are coming in. We will soon be pronouncing,” Mothibi said.

Mothibi was briefing Parliament on SIU’s investigations into the procurement of personal protective equipment for Covid-19 and the Digital Vibes saga.

The head of the investigating unit said although a final report was submitted to Ramaphosa, they would still conduct probes should new evidence come their way.

He further added where they find evidence pointing to a criminal action, the evidence would be referred by the law enforcement agencies to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and other regulatory bodies.

According to Mothibi, there was an inter-agency team which comprises the SIU, NPA and the Hawks.

The team meat regularly to deal with the 19 referrals involving the Digital Vibes contract.

“Very soon we will see the results of these investigations. I would not go into the details,” he said.

Mothibi highlighted that Mkhize resigned before action was taken against him.

He, however, said they were in a process of ensuring that accounting authorities and executive authorities were held to account where the corruption busting unit found irregularities.

“We do so in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and other applicable rules.”

He also said the authorities in question would have to explain how irregularities occurred when they had responsibilities outlined in certain legislations.

A report tabled to Scopa indicated that one of the referrals made in connection to Mkhize in his capacity as the former minister involved in criminal activity.

Other charges include:

• Failure to execute his function in compliance with the constitution, general oversight responsibilities in respect of the affairs of the National Department of Health and his obligations in terms of Section 63 of the PFMA

• Causing irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure to be incurred;

• Possible conflicts of interest in the appointment of Digital Vibes;

• Mkhize may have been negligent when approving budgets in respect of the NHI and the Covid-19 media campaigns; and

• He may have acted contrary to a relevant Cabinet decision.

SIU lead investigator Johnny le Roux maintained that they have made referrals involving senior management, middle management and junior officials for disciplinary action for non-compliance with supply chain management processes and contravention of the PFMA.

Le Roux said they have so far recovered R11.5m that was paid into the SIU bank account on August 26 by one of the companies, for not work not performed.

Le Roux also said the SIU had also identified R22m contained in several bank accounts resulting from cash flows from the Digital Vibes account.

A preservation order was granted to the SIU by the Special Tribunal on June 17.

“The SIU submitted and filed its review application on July 29, 2021, to set side the contract and to recover the full value out of the contract,” Le Roux said.

Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa welcomed the SIU report, which also covered investigations in provinces and other departments.

“We really need to have far stricter and more frank interaction with NPA to impress on the need to deal with referrals and the urgency of the situation,” said Hlengwa.

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Political Bureau

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