Digital Vibes fiasco highlights need for lifestyle audits and ethical transparency
How many others in positions of authority were also implicated for serious wrongdoing in the Department of Health’s Digital Vibes sage, and exactly how deep is the rot of corruption and maladministration that had permeated the DoH? And can South Africans trust the DoH with the proposed National Health Initiative (NHI) after this scandal and the massive PPE corruption exposed by the SIU?
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) says the release of the DoH/Digital Vibes report leaves them with more concerns than answers. “It is time for an overhaul of the department, as well as meaningful implementation of lifestyle audits and more action by the Assets Forfeiture Unit (AFU). We have some of the best anti-corruption laws and regulations in the world, but they are of no use to us if the state doesn't use them, and do so effectively,” says Advocate Stefanie Fick, OUTA Executive Director.
Adv. Fick says it is very concerning that not only the former Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, was directly involved, but also others in senior positions, such as Dr Anban Pillay, Mr Popo Maja (the DoH spokesperson), the previous Director-General, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, and former CFO, Ian van der Merwe.
“Whether these officials actively stole the money meant to fight the pandemic, or enabled the looting or even just kept quiet about it, we must remember that people died as a result of their actions or inaction. It is time for South Africans to remember that corruption kills, and demand that government takes strong action against it.”
The damning report not only raises questions about the DoH and its officials, but also about ethical leadership in cabinet, Adv. Fick says. “What needs to be done to flush out such unscrupulous and blatant conduct going forward? Where else in government are deals of this nature being conducted and why does it have to take the hard work of whistle-blowers, investigative journalists and civil activism to expose this?”
OUTA calls on the President to drive an ethical leadership process for all his cabinet members and others in positions of authority. “The time to get rid of unethical ministers and other leaders is long overdue. The Presidency and cabinet must adopt transparent leadership that will give the public the assurance that our ministers and other leaders are acting lawfully and taking extreme care of our taxes.”
The organisation also calls on the NPA, the Auditor-General and SARS to act swiftly to hold all those involved to account. “We really need them to demonstrate that Government is serious about accountability and consequences for corruption.”