SIU vows to recover R150m irregularly and unlawfully paid to Digital Vibes
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Johannesburg - The Special Investigative Unit (SIU) has now set its sight on recovering the entire R150 million which was irregularly and unlawfully paid to Digital Vibes following their preliminary victory to freeze more than R22 million found in the banking and investment accounts.
Now, the law enforcement agency has vowed to approach the Special Tribunal in the next 30 days with the aim of recovering the remainder of the amount through the attachment of properties belonging to the owners of Digital Vibes and those who benefited from the “irregular and unlawful’ tender.
On Wednesday night, SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said their next application will seek an order against Digital Vibes and other relevant entities/individuals to pay back all financial losses suffered by the State as a consequence of the appointment of Digital Vibes by the National Health Department.
The first transaction was a procurement process in 2019 in terms of which Digital Vibes was appointed to perform communications services relating to the National Health Insurance (NHI).
The second transaction occurred in 2020 during the tenure of the first transaction when Digital Vibes was ‘appointed’ in respect of a Covid-19 awareness campaign without any competitive bidding or other procurement process at all.
Kganyago said the Covid-19 awareness campaign was merely brought in as an extension to the contract between the Department and Digital Vibes in respect of the NHI media campaign, in circumstances where such an extension was “irregular and unlawful.”
Furthermore, the Department utilised the budget allocated for the NHI contract and NHI media campaign to pay for the purported Covid-19 media campaign work allegedly performed by Digital Vibes.
The Department paid a total of R150 million to Digital Vibes, approximately R25 million of which was paid in respect of the NHI media campaign and approximately R125 million in respect of the Covid-19 appointment.
On Thursday last week, the SIU successfully obtained an order to freeze R22m which was found in the banking accounts of Digital Vibes and related companies. The order of the Special Tribunal was executed this week after the owners of Digital Vibes and related entities were served with the court order.
The Special Tribunal order prohibits Digital Vibes from dealing with the funds held in the relevant bank and investment accounts in any manner.
Kganyago said the order was issued based on the information presented by the SIU investigating team and certain information sourced and assisted by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC).
The SIU confirmed that they would launch review proceedings in the Special Tribunal within the next 30 working days.
He, however, said that the SIU investigation into the appointment of Digital Vibes was ongoing, saying the preliminary investigations have revealed clear evidence exposing two highly irregular and unlawful transactions.
The Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize was not cited in the initial application but his director-general Dr Sandile Buthelezi was among the 12 respondents.
Despite civil legal outcomes, the SIU investigation into the affairs of the Department is ongoing. In line with the SIU Act, evidence pointing to criminal conduct will be referred to the National Prosecuting Authority for further action, and the SIU would refer evidence in support of disciplinary, administrative and/or executive actions to the relevant authorities for further action.
The DA and Cope on Wednesday welcomed the freezing of the cash. DA’s Siviwe Gwarube said they hoped that the SIU will complete its investigation by June 30 and thereafter recover losses to the state.
Expressing similar sentiments, Cope’s Dennis Bloem said: “The action by SIU to freeze the accounts of people linked to Digital Vibes is a move in the right direction. Yes, we want all stolen money back. It must be recovered, but we also want to see those thieves behind bars.”