Despite Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s denial that he benefitted from a R150 million health department contract awarded to Digital Vibes, Daily Maverick reported the company settled invoices for maintenance work on a property owned by his family trust.
According to the Daily Maverick’s investigative unit, Scorpio, Digital Vibes, the company at the centre of the contract found to be irregular, not only paid for maintenance work, but also allegedly transferred at least R300 000 to a company owned by Mkhize’s son in May 2020.
Digital Vibes reportedly made two payments of nearly R7 000 to settle invoices from an electrical contractor for work on an upmarket townhouse in Bryanston.
The property was owned by the ZLM Trust, with the minister’s wife, May Mkhize, one of the trustees. She reportedly denied having any knowledge that Digital Vibes paid outstanding invoices for the work done.
The contract Digital Vibes scored was for services linked to the National Health Insurance (NHI) programme and the government’s response to Covid-19, work which the department could have done itself.
It is also alleged that Digital Vibes is controlled by Mkhize’s former personal spokesperson, Tahera Mather, and his former personal assistant, Naadhira Mitha, though the two are not listed as directors.
Earlier this week, Mkhize announced that a forensic investigation into the contract, carried out by the Ngubane Tax Assurance Advisory firm, was finalised this week.
He added that the final report was handed over to both the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday.
The forensic report found the following:the tender bidding process was in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act; the appointment of the service provider was irregular; and there was no disclosure of conflict of interest.
Mkhize maintained that he did not benefit personally from the contract. He also said Mather and Mitha were not friends of his, just comrades who he worked with.
“I also do not regard any of these individuals whose names have been mentioned publicly as personal friends. They are certainly my comrades, I have worked with them in the ordinary course of my political or official duties, and this is not unusual,” Mkhize said.
“As a minister, my obligation is to declare any conflict of interest when it arises and, in this instance, I had not identified any conflict of interest.”
News24 contacted Mkhize’s spokesperson for comment on the allegations and it will be added once received.
Ramaphosa waiting on SIU report
On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was waiting for the SIU’s probe into the Digital Vibes deal to be concluded, so he could “look at the matter myself closely”.
“I’m waiting for the SIU to finish their report,” he said. “There has been a preliminary investigation at departmental level, the minister [Zweli Mkhize] has briefed me, and I’m now waiting to see how the SIU conclude on the matter,” Ramaphosa said.
“I want to take time to consider what they come up with – and, after that, I will be able to handle the matter,” he said.