Deputy President David Mabuza says the Inter-Ministerial Committee on COVID-19 Vaccines has put measures in place to prevent corruption and wasteful expenditure in the procurement and distribution of vaccines.

The Deputy President said this when he responded to oral questions in the National Council of Provinces.

“The IMC has developed a Corruption Risk Mitigation Plan as one of the oversight mechanisms in the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.   

“To give effect to this, the IMC has identified the potential risks related to the procurement of vaccines and mitigation strategies required to address such risks.

“In our view, procurement risk is greater when there are multiple purchasers and suppliers, with no uniformity of quality and effectiveness of the product.

“The ability to monitor and subsequently address corruption and malfeasance is difficult, as we saw with the procurement of personal protective equipment at the outbreak of the pandemic. In that case, there were multiple purchasers, suppliers and there was no uniformity of quality or effectiveness which led to corruption,” said Mabuza.

The Deputy President said in the case of COVID-19 vaccines, corruption and malfeasance will be limited by the fact that the market is highly regulated and there are only a few manufacturers.  

“Further to this, the product is assessed by the regulator to conform to quality standards, and the procurement is centrally done at national level, which makes it easy to monitor.  

“Effectively, there is no room for inflating prices as a result of bribes and kickbacks, especially as we have centralised procurement to ensure fair prices in the acquisition of vaccines.”

The Deputy President said provinces will have a limited function in terms of distribution as there is a national contract for vaccine distribution.

This means that provinces would have to use the selected service provider and existing distribution arrangements for medicines, which are already in place, meaning that there would be no need for any additional procurement.

“Beyond these measures at acquisition and distribution level, we have looked at other risks and potential areas for acts of corruption in order to be comprehensive in our approach.

“For instance, the IMC in its Corruption Risk Mitigation Plan, identifies risks and counter measures across the entire value chain of the COVID-19 vaccination programme – from vaccine acquisition, distribution and administration.  

“Where non-disclosure agreements may be used to hide corruption, constitutional oversight bodies such as the Auditor General of South Africa will have access for a probity audit to such non-disclosure agreements that have been entered into by pharmaceutical companies, as well as by any other vaccine supplier.”

The Deputy President said in addition to the Auditor General, law enforcement agencies are doing their work on intelligence-driven measures of combating crime, fraud and corruption through the Fusion Centre.

“These measures will enable us to deliver a successful vaccination rollout plan and limit any prospects for corruption, whilst enabling South Africa to utilise this opportunity to grow local manufacturing capability, in line with the industrial policy.”

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