Home South African Defence minister says heads will roll over Cuban Covid-19 drug procurement

Defence minister says heads will roll over Cuban Covid-19 drug procurement

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“There is no way that heads are not going to roll. Procurement systems were rubbished.”

Minister Thandi Modise. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

DEFENCE Minister Thandi Modise says heads will roll over the procurement of R215 million worth of the Covid-19 drug Heberon in Cuba without following procedures by the Department of Defence last year.

“There is no way that heads are not going to roll. Procurement systems were rubbished,” Modise said.

She made the statement when the department appeared before the portfolio committee of defence and military veterans on Wednesday, which was briefed on matters related to the Cuban drug.

The late auditor-general Kimi Makwetu found irregularities in the investigation into the Heberon procurement and that the importation of 970,895 viles did not have authorisation from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra).

The department entered into an open-ended contract that was signed after the first delivery of the drug.

In his report, Makwetu found that up to 40% of viles could have been compromised during a break in the cold storage chain.

It emerged at Wednesday’s meeting that there were still outstanding documents and information to be furnished by the department to the auditor-General’s office and Sahpra to complete their investigations.

Sahpra has had issues in accessing the storage facility where the drugs are kept and also obtaining documents to approve the drugs.

The ministerial task team appointed by former minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has yet to report to the ministry and has asked to do so within three weeks.

Modise said heads would roll because they were not going to excuse the procurement of the drug as doing so would set a bad precedent.

“Chairperson, you can rest assured on that one, that heads will roll on this matter,” she said.

Modise also said she hoped Sahpra would not encounter any difficulty accessing the storage facility.

“If we do I will know that we have an extra-military government running this country. (Access to) those facilities must be granted.”

The newly-appointed minister insisted that the Department of Defence should have followed procurement procedures.

“Whether the drug is good or not, procurement processes must be followed. I cannot wake up tomorrow and say ’I want a helicopter’ and it is procured. It can’t be done,” she said.

“I cannot decide tomorrow that one country produces better aspirin than we do and that I want it and procure it. There are processes that must be respected. Not all of us are running this country. We must subject ourselves to the right regulations and laws of this country.”

Political Bureau

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