SIU Secures Order To Freeze Accounts Linked To Digital Vibes

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been granted a preservation order, by the Special Tribunal to freeze approximately R22 million held in bank and investment accounts linked to Digital Vibes and individuals linked to the company.

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The Special Tribunal Order prohibited Digital Vibes and other related entities from dealing with the funds held in the relevant bank and investment accounts in any manner, according to a statement released by the SIU.

This also includes entities/individuals, who received payments from Digital Vibes, which is at the centre of, Inter Alia, a COVID-19 media campaign contract that was awarded to it by the department. 

This forms part of taking action against those implicated in corruption, maladministration and malpractice, in the matter involving the national Department of Health and the communication firm.

Based on the information presented by the SIU investigating team and certain information sourced and assisted by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), between 4 and 14 June 2021, after being approached by the SIU with evidence, the FIC issued intervention directions under Section 34 of the FIC Act.

This was to place on hold approximately R22 million of funds derived from the monies paid to Digital Vibes by the department for a period of 10 working days.

Speaking to eNCA's SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said that although they have only been able to freeze R22 million, the contract originally amounted to R150 million.

They intend to approach the Special Tribunal after concluding the first phase of their investigation in order to further investigate the merits of the contract.

"With this particular order, the money that we have found and are freezing in that account is only R22 million. You will remember that the total amount of this contract is about R150 million and we just have to wait for the end of the investigation so that we are able to then know where this money went to and like we always do, we will make sure that if there's any money that has been lost to the sate we will make sure that it is recovered." He said 

The second thing that we are doing is to make sure that we approach, on the second leg of the Special Tribunal to set aside this contract because we have already found that the contract was not entered into in a fair manner because initially, Digital Vibes was appointed to deal with National Health Insurance and ultimately without following any process was put through to work under this Covid-19 communication.

The SIU is currently in the process of finalizing its report which will be presented to the President by the end of the month and will begin the process of setting aside the Digital Vibes Covid-19 communication contract with the department of health.

The statement also revealed that, while the SIU's probe into the awarding of the contract was ongoing

The first transaction is a procurement process in 2019 in terms of which the company 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."

"The COVID-19 awareness campaign was merely brought in as an extension to the contract between the department and Digital Vibes in respect of the NHI media campaign in circumstances where such an extension was irregular and unlawful," reads the statement

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 SIU adds that the department paid a total of approximately R150 million to Digital Vibes, approximately R 25 million of which was paid in respect of the NHI media campaign and approximately R125 million in respect of the COVID-19 appointment.

 

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