Cape Times

SIU vows to recover entire R150m from Digital Vibes

- BALDWIN NDABA baldwin.ndaba@inl.co.za

DIGITAL Vibes legal troubles are mounting following a Special Investigat­ive Unit (SIU) pledge to launch another court applicatio­n to recover the entire R150 million which was irregularl­y and unlawfully paid to them.

The pledge came after the SIU won a first round victory to freeze more than R22m found in the company’s 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 attachment of properties belonging to the owners of Digital Vibes and those who benefited from the alleged irregular and unlawful tender.

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 occurred last year 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. 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”.

Also, the department used the budget allocated for the NHI contract and NHI media campaign to pay for the Covid-19 media campaign work allegedly performed by Digital Vibes.

The department paid a total of about R150m to Digital Vibes, about R25m of which was paid in respect of the NHI media campaign and about R125m 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 the company 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 30 working days.

However, Kganyago said the SIU investigat­ion into the appointmen­t of Digital Vibes was ongoing. Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize, who is on special leave as a result of the investigat­ion, was not cited in the initial applicatio­n but his director-general Dr Sandile Buthelezi was among the 12 respondent­s.

In line with the SIU Act, evidence pointing to criminal conduct will be referred to the NPA for further action and the SIU will refer evidence in support of disciplina­ry, administra­tive and/ or executive actions to the relevant authoritie­s for further action.

The DA and Cope yesterday welcomed the freezing of the money. DA’s Siviwe Gwarube said they hoped that the SIU would complete its investigat­ion by June 30 and thereafter recover losses to the state. 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.”

 ??  ?? DR ZWELI MKHIZE
DR ZWELI MKHIZE

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