SIU granted order to freeze R22m in accounts linked to Digital Vibes
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been granted a preservation order to freeze R22m held in bank and investment accounts linked to communications company Digital Vibes.
The SIU said the order was part of an investigation into allegations of unlawful or irregular procurement of Covid-19 communication services by the health department.
The order, granted by the Special Tribunal on June 17, prohibits Digital Vibes, Tahera Mather, Naadhira Mitha, Suhaila Mather, Suhaila Mather Consulting (Pty) Ltd, Amods Attorneys, WT Graphics and Designs (Pty) Ltd, and Strategeewhiz from dealing with the funds held in the bank and investment accounts in any manner.
SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said based on information presented by the SIU investigating team and information sourced via the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) between June 4 and 14, the FIC issued intervention directions to place a hold on about R22m derived from money paid to Digital Vibes by the health department.
“The SIU approached the Special Tribunal for a preservation order/interdict to freeze the accounts following an investigation into allegations of unlawful and/or irregular procurement of Covid-19 communication services by the department,” he said.
Kganyago said the SIU would launch review proceedings in the Special Tribunal within 30 working days and seek an order against Digital Vibes, entities and individuals to pay back all financial losses suffered by the state.
“Though the SIU investigation in the appointment of Digital Vibes is ongoing, the preliminary investigations have revealed clear evidence exposing two highly irregular and unlawful transactions,” he said.
“The first transaction is a procurement process in 2019, in terms of which Digital Vibes was appointed to perform communications services relating to the National Health Insurance (NHI).
“The second transaction occurred in 2020, during the tenure of the first transaction, when Digital Vibes was ‘appointed’ in respect of a Covid-19 awareness campaign without any competitive bidding or other procurement process at all.”
Kganyago said the Covid-19 awareness campaign was an extension to the contract between the department and the company in respect of the NHI media campaign.
“Furthermore, the department utilised the budget allocated for the NHI contract and NHI media campaign to pay for the purported Covid-19 media campaign work allegedly performed by Digital Vibes.
“The department paid a total of approximately R150m to Digital Vibes, approximately R25m of which was paid in respect of the NHI media campaign and approximately R125m in respect of the Covid-19 appointment.”
He said despite civil legal outcomes, the SIU investigation into the affairs of the department was ongoing.
“In line with the SIU Act, evidence pointing to criminal conduct will be referred to the National Prosecuting Authority for further action, and the SIU will refer evidence in support of disciplinary, administrative or executive actions to the relevant authorities for further action.”