Special Tribunal Allows SIU to Freeze R22 Million From Digital Vibes Saga

By Oliver Ngwenya    23-Jun-2021 19:49 UTC+02:00

SIU spokesman Kaizer Kganyago. Photo: Sunday World

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has revealed that it has managed to secure an order that freezes part of the money that is connected to the ill-fated contract between the Department of Health and the marketing company called Digital Vibes. The spokesman of the SIU, Kaizer Kganyago, announced on Wednesday that the Special Tribunal made the ruling to freeze R22 million which includes investment and banking accounts of Digital Vibes and individuals within the company.

Digital Vibes was awarded a contract to market the Department of Health’s National Health Insurance (NHI). According to the SIU, there are two highly irregular and illegal transactions between the department and Digital Vibes. In particular, the investigation unit made reference to the awarding of the Covid-19 awareness campaign to the company in a process that did not follow the right protocols. Kganyago said that such a process should have followed competitive bidding or other procurement processes, and this was not done at all. “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,” said the spokesman. He went on to say that the initial irregular transaction had occurred back in 2019 when Digital Vibes had been tasked with overseeing the communication and marketing of the NHI. “The department paid a total of approximately 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,” Kganyago said.

The statement by the SIU spokesman went further to give details, in which he said, “Based on the information presented by the SIU investigating team and certain information sourced and assisted by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), between 4 and 14 June 2021, after being approached by the SIU with evidence, the FIC issued intervention directions under Section 34 of the FIC Act to place a hold on approximately R22 million of funds derived from the monies paid to Digital Vibes by the department for a period of 10 working days.”

It is anticipated that the SIU will conclude its investigations before the end of June. According to Kganyago, once the report is completed, it will be taken to the president and then hopefully lead to the setting aside of the contract that Digital Vibes had been granted as it is believed that it was entered into in an unfair manner. The Digital Vibes saga is the one that led President Ramaphosa to place Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on special leave following the revelation that two of the people that were closely linked to the company were his associates even though he referred to them as “comrades”. Mkhize has since been replaced by Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane in an acting capacity.

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