The Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) ongoing investigation into the Department of Health’s (DoH) R150-million Digital Vibes contract has flagged a payment of R6,000 made to one of the department’s officials.
Khubane Ngobese, who worked at the DoH’s headquarters in Pretoria, allegedly received the money in her personal bank account, according to a joinder application the SIU has filed at the Special Tribunal.
This is part of the proceedings through which the SIU is seeking to recover the proceeds of the allegedly corrupt contract.
According to the filings, Ngobese received the R6,000 in May 2020.
The money had been paid into her account by Composit Trade and Investments 02, a shell company set up and controlled by Tahera Mather, a long-time associate of former health minister Zweli Mkhize and the alleged mastermind behind the Digital Vibes scheme.
(See also recent report by Scorpio: R1m from Digital Vibes deal bankrolled hair salon, nail boutique for Minister Zweli Mkhize’s son, daughter-in-law)
Of the R150-million Digital Vibes had received from the DoH, some R20-million found their way to Composit Trade and Investments 02.
The SIU has uncovered invoices from Digital Vibes that bear a stamp with Ngobese’s name and her position at the department.
The stamp formed part of the DoH’s approval system for payments to the supplier.
Ngobese’s stamp essentially paved the way for payments worth nearly R70-million made to Digital Vibes, according to the SIU’s filings.
Ngobese is employed as a senior administration officer and a personal assistant to Shireen Pardesi, a chief director at the DoH. Pardesi formed part of the tender committee that awarded the contract to Digital Vibes.
In her affidavit filed in the matter, Ngobese claimed that she did not have the necessary authority to approve payments to suppliers and that she was unaware that the stamp bearing her name had been used for processing the transactions.
“Somebody is using my name unlawfully to ensure that Digital Vibes invoices are being approved for payment,” reads her affidavit, which makes no mention of the R6,000 she had allegedly received in her bank account.
In an affidavit from one of its investigators, the SIU expresses strong scepticism as regards Ngobese’s denials.
“It can further reasonably be inferred that Ms Ngobese’s disavowal of having any knowledge of the stamp . . . is not true,” reads the affidavit.
The SIU is alleging that Ngobese received money from Mather, via Composit Trade and Investments, in exchange for her role in ensuring that Digital Vibes got paid by the DoH.
“There is no lawful basis on which Ms Ngobese may retain a payment that constitutes the proceeds of the unlawful transactions between the NDOH and Digital Vibes and that is moreover a gratification for her assistance in the facilitation of payment to Digital Vibes,” contends the SIU.
Elsewhere in the filings, the SIU states that it is “reasonable to infer that the payment [to Ngobese] was made by Ms Mather with funds paid by Digital Vibes and laundered through Composit to avoid the obviously suspicious appearance that would be created by Digital Vibes itself making a payment to an NDOH official who had a role in the authorisation of payments by the NDOH to Digital Vibes . . .”
The SIU is seeking to recover nearly R100-million from some 30 respondents identified as the principal recipients of the alleged loot.
Mkhize and his son, Dedani, are among those identified by the SIU as beneficiaries of the allegedly corrupt deal.
This after Daily Maverick Scorpio first revealed that some of the proceeds of the contract had been used for maintenance work at one of the former minister’s properties in Gauteng, while a larger portion of the contract had been diverted to Dedani and his wife, Sthoko.
Ngobese sounded flabbergasted when Scorpio reached her on her cellphone.
“I don’t know about it. I don’t know what they are talking about,” she said in response to queries regarding the alleged payment to her bank account.
Mkhize stepped down as Health Minister last month. On resigning, he said that the SIU had erred in implicating him. DM