Health department contract rigged in favour of Digital Vibes - report

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Minister of Health Zwelini Mkhize has denied any benefit from the Digital Vibes contract.
Minister of Health Zwelini Mkhize has denied any benefit from the Digital Vibes contract.
Sharon Seretlo, Gallo Images
  • Special Investigating Unit submissions point towards a rigged tender process for the Digital Vibes communications contract, according to a report.
  • The R150 million health department contract is under investigation.
  • Digital Vibes has close connections to embattled Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who is on special leave.

Special Investigating Unit (SIU) submissions relating to a R150 million Department of Health communications contract, show that the tender process was allegedly set up to favour communications company Digital Vibes, according to a Daily Maverick report.

Digital Vibes, which has close connections to embattled Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, was contracted for communications relating to the country's National Health Insurance (NHI) campaign in 2019, and the work was later expanded to include communications on Covid-19.

The Daily Maverick Scorpio's investigation found that Mkhize and his family benefited financially from the Digital Vibes deal. Mkhize is on special leave.

On 17 June, the SIU obtained a preservation order that allowed it to freeze R22 million that was held in bank and investment accounts linked to Digital Vibes and people who received payments from the company.

Preliminary investigations revealed evidence exposing two highly irregular and unlawful transactions, the SIU previously told News24.

A probe into the awarding of the tender also found that Mkhize allegedly pressured officials to appoint the company, according to a Sunday Times report. Mkhize has denied deriving any benefit from the contract.

The SIU has submitted a report on the contract to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

READ | Digital Vibes contract: Ramaphosa still studying SIU report

Presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale previously told News24 the Presidency was "studying the report and will keep the public abreast of developments in this matter".

The SIU's latest filings at the Special Tribunal has exposed the role health officials played in the allegedly irregular tender process, according to Daily Maverick.

In its latest filings, the SIU reportedly found the procurement process to award the contract was deeply flawed and appears to have been "rigged" to ensure the appointment of Digital Vibes.

According to the report, Digital Vibes' main rival was "irregularly and incorrectly" disqualified from the process. The report also indicated that Digital Vibes was chosen over a competitor bidding at only R69 million – less than half the amount paid for the contract.

The SIU filings also reportedly criticised the conduct of the Tender Evaluation Committee (TEC) during the bidding process. The SIU reportedly said the TEC did not score proposals fairly and consistently.

Other irregularities flagged by the SIU reportedly include the RFP (request for proposal) process, which could have resulted in the deliberate exclusion of submissions from rival communication companies.

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