DA requests Military Ombud to investigate SANDF Covid-19 drugs debacle

Issued by Kobus Marais MP – DA Shadow Minister of Defence
16 Nov 2020 in News

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Military Ombud, Lt Gen (Ret) Vusumuzi Masondo, to request an investigation into the debacle around the R215 million the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) wasted on importing Heberon Alpha R 2B, also known as Interferon, to use as Covid-19 treatment even though it is not registered for use in that capacity by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

Recently a scathing preliminary report from the Auditor-General (AG) of South Africa painted a dark picture of the procurement of these drugs. Not only did the Department of Defence (DoD) not provide the AG with the necessary information to complete the investigation, it seems that the Department did not comply with legislation regarding the importing of non-registered pharmaceuticals before, during or after the fact. The Department also seemingly failed to follow the proper protocols related to monitoring the cold chain storage and transportation of the imported drugs, and there are serious concerns around the integrity, and subsequent usability, of a large number of the imported vials that have yet to be addressed.

An answer as to why DoD felt the need to import medication in the first place and sought to remove this responsibility from the Health Department has yet to be answered as well.

As highlighted in a Sunday Times article, the report noted that SANDF had permission for the treatment of one patient with 10 vials of the imported Heberon Alpha R 2B, but that SAHPRA rejected the application for treatment on a large scale.

Questions around who approved the procurement of the medication will hopefully be answered when SANDF complies with the AG requests to be furnished with the necessary documentation to complete the investigation.

In the mean-time, the DA will be laying charges with the Military Ombud against the SANDF Chief Gen Solly Shoke, SANDF Chief of Logistics Lt Gen Morris Moadira, SANDF Chief of Staff Lt Gen Lindile Yam, and the Surgeon General of the South African Military Health Service (SAMHS) Lt Gen Zola Dabula. The DA also calls for President Cyril Ramaphosa to hold the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to account for her involvement in this latest scandal to rock the DoD this year.

The AG report shows a corrupt SANDF that tried every trick in the book to get away with wasting taxpayers’ money on illegally importing non-registered pharmaceuticals. SANDF did not even show prospective patients the courtesy of ensuring that the medication was transported in a safe manner and strived to use military personnel and soldiers as unwitting lab rats by seeking permission from SAHPRA to use the drug on a large scale months after it reached South African soil.

From the start, the procurement of these pharmaceuticals from Cuba involved nothing but subterfuge and illegalities and those responsible need to be brought to book urgently.

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