The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) notes and welcomes the long-awaited Special Investigation Unit (SIU) Report into the Digital Vibes saga.
We have waited far too long for this Report, which has revealed gross misconduct on the part of senior officials from the Department of Health (DoH), as well as associates and family members of the former Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize. Beyond the financial benefits accrued by the concerned individuals, the IFP notes Mkhize’s direct involvement in the unprocedural appointment of officials at the DoH, which has far-reaching consequences for transparency and accountability in the public service.
The manner in which the closed bid process saw the DoH deviate from the standard procurement laws and regulations is a devastating blow to the functions of state-owned enterprises. There were “intentional misrepresentations” by former DG Pillay to National Treasury, through which the DoH sought approval to appoint Digital Vibes without a normal open tender process. The SIU has identified this as fraud and that Pillay be charged criminally for that conduct.
Of the R150-million Digital Vibes pocketed in total, approximately R132-million came from budget allocations that Mkhize himself had signed or approved. His son, Dedani Mkhize, received at least R3.8-million from the Digital Vibes contract, via cash paid through a third-party account, a vehicle that had been bought for him and payments deposited into one of his companys accounts.
Ms Mather and Ms Mitha used Digital Vibes as a front to hide the fact that they were tendering for the contract because they were close associates of the former Health Minister. The Report found that the Department’s Tender Evaluation Committee (TEC) “irregularly and irrationally” appointed Digital Vibes ahead of a rival bidder, which could have performed the envisioned NHI communications work for less than half of the R141-million price tag submitted by Digital Vibes. This is indicative of the greed that is driving the ruling party, at the expense of the very people it was elected to serve.
The IFP calls for criminal proceedings to swiftly follow these revelations of widespread fraud, money-laundering, and procurement process irregularities. Attention must also be drawn to the fact that none of these fund transfers were flagged by the financial sector. Our banks have to be vigilant as regards possible money laundering, and are legally-bound to question – and report – suspicious transactions. If they fail to do so, they could also be viewed as accomplices in these irregularities.
Further, it is not enough for the public to know about the misconduct, or for lengthy disciplinary proceedings to be held. Heads must roll.
We need action now – not from the President, but from the prosecuting authorities. Those implicated must end up in orange overalls, and the monies stolen must be recovered, regardless of the party affiliation of the individuals concerned. Further, the IFP believes it is time for implicated officials, at this level, to stop being paid while on suspension. Lengthy disciplinary processes must become a thing of the past, while quick and decisive – but fair – processes become the order of the day.
As the IFP, we believe that these revelations are merely the tip of the iceberg, which has now been exposed thanks to the SIU’s investigation, and we welcome the SIUs commitment to further investigations. We also believe that this type of fraud and financial mismanagement is widespread across government departments.
The IFP welcomes the recommendation that the DoH must take appropriate steps to eliminate the need for consultants and eliminate favouritism when considering the appointment of consultants. We further welcome the assertion that the DoH must not make misrepresentations to National Treasury regarding competitive bidding processes, for purposes of gaining permission to follow supply chain management deviations or closed bidding processes. Finally, a critical recommendation is that the DoH must ensure effective project and contract management – in respect of all contracts – including the implementation of checks and balances to ensure fair value for all payments made.
That a public health system can be manipulated to serve a few individuals, particularly during such a critical time for South Africans and the world at large, speaks to the deplorable state of ethics of the ANC and its cadres. The overwhelming majority of South Africans rely on public healthcare. It is well known that our public health sector is already compromised and overburdened. The pilfering of millions in critical funds earmarked to serve the public and enhance the constitutional imperative of access to healthcare, must be condemned.
This Report is one more example of the rampant corruption in the ranks of the ANC and must serve as a caution to the South African public as they head to the polls on 1 November. The ANC has shown us repeatedly how they do not care for the people, and that they can steal from them at such a critical time. None of their representatives can be trusted to steer this country forward.