DURBAN - NATIONAL Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has welcomed a probe into reports that a family friend and a former secretary have scored millions of rands in tender contracts from his department.
This week, it was widely reported that two close friends of the minister had secured a communications contract from the Department of Health (DoH), valued at around R82m.
According to Daily Maverick, the DoH appointed Digital Vibes in late 2019 through a contentious closed tender to provide communications services for the government’s National Health Insurance roll-out.
The article claims that the scope of work was extended in March 2020 to include communications services for Covid-19. In a period of just nine months, the firm obtained orders from the DoH for Covid-19 projects valued at more than R82m. The same company also secured a contract from the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) in 2018, while Mkhize led this department.
Digital Vibes is based in KZN and Tahera Mather and Naadhira Mitha are closely linked to Mkhize.
It was later revealed that the matter was under investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). According to the SIU's Kaizer Kganyango, they had received a complaint about a multimillion-rand tender awarded to the company.
Mkhize has said he was aware of the investigation prior to the news report.
He said in January, the director-general met with him as part of the DoH's weekly reporting meetings.
"In that meeting, he gave me an update on ongoing investigations in the department. These investigations are based on either audit reports or whistle-blowing that would have been received. In relation to Digital Vibes, he advised that the auditor-general had raised specific findings on the deviations that were implemented and found them to be irregular. He informed me that he had resolved to investigate these matters further and the actual contract in order to ensure that the department is not found wanting by having irregular tenders.
"I fully supported this view and asked him to go ahead. At the time, he sought guidance on whether this must be done by Internal Audit. Given the fact that other investigations had been done externally because of lack of capacity internally to investigate, I advised the director-general to procure the services of an external independent service provider to investigate this," Mkhize said.
He said he both appreciates and supports - as part of accountability - clean governance and ensuring compliance with the PFMA and Treasury Regulations.
Mkhize said where allegations of irregularities and non-compliance have been brought to his attention through an audit finding or whistle-blowing, the department must interrogate these.
"We also welcome the statement by the SIU that they will also investigate these allegations. This is part of the commitment we made that allegations of any form of corruption made must be investigated.
“This remains important for the Department of Health as it is expected to continue implementing the government’s plan and strategy to our Covid-19 response.
“Because these allegations have raised public interest, we do commit that the outcomes of the investigation will be accordingly reported to the public," Mkhize said.