R22 million held in bank accounts linked to Digital Vibes frozen

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been granted an order to freeze R22 million in bank and investment accounts linked to Digital Vibes.

The SIU said it would approach the Special Tribunal to have the Covid-19 media campaign contract awarded by the Department of Health to Digital Vibes declared unlawful and invalid.

The Special Tribunal Order prohibits Digital Vibes, Tahera Mather, Naadhira Mitha, Suhaila Mather, Suhaila Mather Consulting, Amods Attorneys, WT Graphics and Designs, and Strategeewhiz from dealing with the funds held in the relevant bank and investment accounts.

The SIU said their preliminary investigations had revealed clear evidence exposing two highly irregular and unlawful transactions.

  1. A procurement process in 2019 where Digital Vibes was appointed to perform communications services relating to the NHI.
  2. A transaction in 2020 where Digital Vibes was appointed for a Covid-19 awareness campaign without a competitive bidding or procurement process.

“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,” the SIU said.

The circumstances around the extension of the campaign were irregular and unlawful.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the Digital Vibes contract amounted to R150 million – far more than the R22 million which was frozen.

“We just have to wait for the end of the investigation, which will establish where all the money went to,” he said.

“We follow the money and make sure if there is any money lost by the state, we will make sure it is recovered.”

Kganyago said they are now finalising their report, which will be presented to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Digital Vibes contract

The Digital Vibes contract came under scrutiny after allegations of corruption surfaced earlier this year.

Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize was linked to the deal, and President Cyril Ramaphosa has subsequently placed him on special leave.

The Special Investigative Unit (SIU) is now conducting investigations into allegations of corruption at the health department.

“This period of special leave will enable the minister to attend to allegations and investigations concerning contracts between the Department of Health and a service provider – Digital Vibes,” the presidency said.

“The Special Investigating Unit is investigating this matter and the president awaits a report on the outcome of this probe.”

Digital Vibes, which is controlled by two of Mkhize’s former aides, has been given a contract to communicate the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The money from this contract was largely wasted and proper procurement processes were not followed, Daily Maverick reported.

Mkhize admitted that the deal was irregular and disciplinary action would be taken against those responsible.

He denied playing any role in the awarding of the contract or that he was friends with people working at Digital Vibes. He also denied benefitting in any way from the contract.

However, reports have pointed to how Digital Vibes paid for maintenance work on the minister’s home, as well as giving hundreds of thousands of rands to Mhize’s son’s business.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago interview

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R22 million held in bank accounts linked to Digital Vibes frozen