25 May 2021
From the desk of the General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana
Following the publishing by the Daily Maverick of the initial results of the ongoing investigation into suspected irregularities with the communications contract awarded by the National Department of Health (NDoH) to Digital Vibes, the South African Council of Churches (SACC) is dismayed by what has surfaced, even as the matter unfolds.
The report points to gross and unfathomable abuse of public funds, which has undoubtedly dented the image of the NDoH, while making a mockery of government communications. The amounts of money reportedly paid to Digital Vibes by the NDoH for various services make no sense at all, and point to an extent of greed and disrespect that has become far too common as rooted in public institutions in our country.
It is shocking that such shenanigans continue to happen with no accountability, especially in the light of last year’s exposés of COVID-19 corruption, whose perpetrators have yet to see the inside of prison. The thought that these alleged improprieties, implicating people associated with the Minister of Health, were unfolding at a time that the entire NDoH was burdened by the plight of so many South Africans staring death in the face, sends chills down the spine. We pray that the wrongdoers will all be brought to book. It is déjà vu from the COVID-preneurs’ scandal of last July, the looting frenzy on PPEs with no concern for the poor people. Prophet Hosea bemoans, “They have sunk deep into corruption. God will remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins” (Hosea 9:9).
While we await the full forensic investigation of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the investigative journalists’ accounts are drawing our attention to alleged practices that boggle the mind. The reports of payments made to Digital Vibes and its so-called subcontractors for various services rendered is incredulous, and frankly a disgrace. The work of the NDoH, particularly as it relates to other public entities like the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) should never have been for the invoice of contractors, invoiced and paid, if true, to the tune of the millions of rands that we’ve seen exposed by The Daily Maverick. The NDoH has a vibrant communications unit that should not need contractors to organise the Minister’s press events.
With reports of inflated prices, was there no one within the NDoH who queried the correlation of invoiced amounts against the services rendered? Were there no other service provider who had offered similar services to the NDoH in the past, that such invoices could have been set against? Who all were involved in authorising these payments? Is there no one to break the silence? Apostle Paul advises, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11) Or are we to believe that the tentacles of corruption extend into the entirety of the NDoH management? God forbid! This is the nerve-centre of the country’s COVID-19 combat!
We urge the SIU in the national interests, to prioritise the conclusion of their investigation to uncover the full extent of wrongdoing. We expect the authorities to freeze all the assets of Digital Vibes and persons under investigation, to prevent their preemptive disposal.
We are left with a flavour of bitterness in our mouths, such as we have not tasted before, as we wonder what else may be discovered, and how those responsible will be brought to book.
At the heart of this investigation is the health and wellbeing of millions of South Africans who would have benefited from the funds had they been used appropriately in public service announcements and communications efforts, to the full value of the invoices that were paid out.
SACC Communications Consultant
South African Council of Churches
Tel: 084 074 1285 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org