Civil society group Corruption Watch (CW) has asked Treasury to provide clarity on government’s procurement and distribution process for the coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine, with fears that corruption could come into play.
Last year, the country was marred with corruption scandals around the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) and involved high-level individuals in the ruling African National Congress.
In a statement, CW executive director David Lewis said that maximum transparency and tight oversight would forestall another disastrous, corrupted procurement experience.
“While CW appreciates that there is one sole purchaser – the Department of Health (DoH) – which facilitates carrying out oversight, the roles within the oversight function are not clearly defined, nor is the action plan explained in such detail that all stakeholders can understand it for effective implementation,” the organisation said.
CW had written to Treasury querying procurement transparency, oversight, transport, storage and vaccine distribution, as well as public finance and governance aspects.
While CW welcomed a response from Treasury, it pointed out that the response did not address planned deviations from procurement processes in the purchase of vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
CW head of legal and investigations Karam Singh said Treasury had also disclosed that the DoH had also applied for a deviation from procurement processes for the transport, storage and distribution of the vaccines.
“Procurement associated with the roll-out of the vaccine is an area that will require special scrutiny to ensure we do not see a repeat of the PPE procurement debacle,” he stated.
The use of public money for vaccine procurement will be overseen by the Auditor-General and CW has suggested that the DoH ensure that proposal and contract requests be made public, alongside items subject to non-disclosure agreements.