Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has not suspended any department officials and was not involved in the investigations into the controversial multi-million Rand Digital Vibes communications tender, the ministry said.
“It is essential to mention that the minister of health does not get involved in the administrative functions of the department,” the statement attributed to director general Sandile Buthelezi said on Sunday.
“As indicated on previous occasions the director general, as the accounting officer of the department, is dealing with all investigations relating to the Digital Vibes matter working with the Special Investigation Unit (SIU).”
Digital Vibes was awarded a R150m contract by the department for communications work that had initially focused on the National Health Insurance scheme but was later expanded to include Covid-19 communications.
The company is accused of inflating prices and doing work that the department could do internally.
In the statement, Buthelezi said he was working on the implementation of the recommendations from the SIU investigations and would ensure that the recommendations were fully implemented, the department said.
“At this stage, the Department does not wish to compromise any of the processes that are underway and those that may be implemented in future by divulging the identity of implicated individuals,” the statement read.
“It should also be noted that the minister has not been involved in any of the investigations or the decisions to implement any of the recommendations to avoid compromising the status of the investigations that are underway.”
The department and Mkhize remained “committed to cooperating” with all investigations in the Digital Vibes matter, it said.
As more allegations against Mkhize, surfaced political parties called for his head on May 29, but President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was waiting for the SIU report to be concluded.
Conceding that the R150 million contract was irregular, Mkhize claimed that he had not personally benefited from it adding that he did not declare a conflict of interest because he believed that there was none.
However, according to reports, the communications firm allegedly paid for maintenance at a property owned by Mkhize’s family trust.
Digital Vibes allegedly made at least two payments to a contractor for maintenance and repair work at a Johannesburg property owned by Mkhize’s ZLM Trust.
Digital Vibes also allegedly transferred at least R300 000 to a company owned by Mkhize’s son in May 2020.
A report revealed that Digital Vibes made two payments, one in June and the other in July 2020, totalling nearly R7 000, to settle invoices from an electrical contractor for work at an upmarket townhouse in Bryanston, Johannesburg.
At the time, the property was owned by the ZLM Trust. One of its three trustees is Dr May Mkhize, the minister’s wife. The minister’s surname and cellphone number are listed on the contractor’s invoices.