Parliament, Thursday, 18 February 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans resolved to reconvene a meeting with the Chief of the South African Military Health Service Surgeon-General Lieutenant-General Zola Dabula, the Chief Financial Officer Mr Siphiwe Sokhela, the Chief of Logistics Lieutenant-General Jabulani Mbuli and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) to further understand the reasons behind the procurement of Heberon and to receive answers that were not given due to time constraints.

The meeting held yesterday was a follow-up meeting to the engagement with the Office of the Auditor-General that gave the committee a report on the special audit on the financial management of Covid-19 funds by the Department of Defence. “Due to the severity and volume of information given, the committee considered it prudent to schedule another meeting to discuss the matter further,” said Mr Cyril Xaba, the Chairperson of the committee.

Nonetheless, the committee finds it unacceptable that some officials within the Department of Defence are deliberately withholding information from the Office of the Auditor-Generalthat would enable it to conclude its special audit.

“The deliberate withholding of information on the procurement of Heberon ® Alfa R (Heberon), which contains the active ingredient interferon alpha 2b, procured for approximately R260,59 million by the Department of Defence is unacceptable and undermines the authority of Parliament and the committee,as a clear instruction was given to the department during the meeting of 3 February 2021 to make the information available,” said Mr Cyril Xaba, the Chairperson of the committee.

The disregard of an instruction by Parliament give an impression of lack of transparency, which undermines accountability. Furthermore, the withholding of information undermines the assurance given by the Minister of Defence to the Office of the Auditor-General to make available any and all information necessary for the conclusion of the special audit.

Also concerning for the committee is that a meeting between the Department of Defence and the Sahpra to discuss a way forward regarding the procurement of Heberon in contravention of Section 21 of the Medicines Act has been frustrated by members of the defence force.

The committee remains extremely concerned that medication procurement policy and regulatory prescripts were broken when Heberon was procured. To this end, the committee notes theMinister of Defence’s intention to institute an investigation to get to the bottom of the matter. “The swift conclusion of the investigation is necessary to ensure accountability and transparency,” Mr Xaba emphasised.

The committee remains committed to concluding the interrogation of the matter meticulously and the engagement next week is to ensure that all answers are given and thatindividuals responsible are held accountable.


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