South Africa’s crime-busting Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has frozen about R22 million (£1.1m) held in bank and investment accounts of a media company and others, including a law firm, linked to alleged corruption. Tania Broughton reports.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize went on special leave after it was revealed that he had close links to the directors of the media company, Digital Vibes, which had donated a truck to his son.
Mkhize claimed to have no knowledge of any dodgy contracts the company had with the health department but took leave amid the growing controversy.
The SIU is an independent statutory body mandated to investigate corruption, malpractice and maladministration in government and to recover any ensuing financial losses through civil action.
SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said it had been granted an order earlier this month by the Special Tribunal in terms of which the money had been preserved.
The order prohibits Digital Vibes and its owners and others, including local law firm Ahmods Attorneys, from dealing with the funds in the relevant bank and investment accounts.
He said the SIU investigation had been boosted by the assistance of the Financial Intelligence Centre.
“The SIU approached the Special Tribunal for the order to freeze the accounts following the investigation into allegations of unlawful and/or irregular procurement of Covid-19 communication services by the department.
“While investigations are ongoing, the preliminary investigations have revealed clear evidence exposing two highly irregular and unlawful transactions.
“These are a 2019 procurement process through which Digital Vibes was appointed (at a cost of R25 million) to perform communications services relating to the (still to be rolled out) National Health Insurance.
“The second transaction occurred in 2020, during the tenure of the first, where the company was ‘appointed’ in respect of a Covid-19 awareness campaign, without any competitive bidding or procurement process at all.”
Kganyago said the so-called “extension” of the contract - which cost the department R125 million - was unlawful.
He said the SIU would approach the Special Tribunal within 30 days to seek an order against Digital Vibes and the others who had received money into their bank accounts, to pay back the money.
“Evidence pointing to criminal conduct will be referred to the National Prosecuting Authority and evidence in support of disciplinary, administrative or executive actions will be referred to the relevant authorities.”
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