The DA has called on Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise to initiate a process to terminate a clause on the contract and cancel the payment of the outstanding R180 million for the Heberon drug irregularly procured from Cuba.
On Wednesday, the portfolio committee on defence heard that the department entered into an open-ended contract that was signed after the first delivery of the drug. It was also told that the department has paid R35m of the R215m for the procurement contract which was found irregular by the auditor-general and was done without authorisation from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra).
DA MP Kobus Marais said on Thursday that the contract with the Cuban government could not continue to subsist and had been rendered invalid due to glaring violations by the department.
Marais said the department had failed to conduct due diligence in consultation with Sahpra on the efficacy of Heberon.
He also said that there was a violation of South Africa’s public procurement laws and import regulations as the department was yet to provide evidence of whether it sought an exemption from the National Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry for exclusive procurement of the drug.
Marais said the claim that failure to pay the outstanding amount would negatively affect the bilateral relations between Cuba and South Africa was completely unfounded.
“The Department of Defence and Cuba should not have entered into a pharmaceutical drug supply agreement without a certificate of approval from Sahpra. Worse still, there is no evidence to show that the Cuban Covid-19 Heberon drug has World Health Organization certification on pharmaceutical products quality.”
He said heads should not only roll for those who were involved in the shocking abuse of public resources but they should also be held accountable.
Marais also said soon after the tabling of the ministerial report in three weeks, as promised by Modise, the DA would be laying criminal charges against all those implicated.
“Minister Modise’s commitment to transparency on this Cuban drug issue will only work if she stops the payment of the R180m that is being demanded by the Cubans and holding all the implicated officials accountable for their actions,” he said. Modise has undertaken to crack the whip on those responsible for the irregular procurement of the Cuban drug.
“There is no way that heads are not going to roll. Procurement systems were ruined,” she told MPs on Wednesday. Modise said regardless of the efficiency of the drug, the Defence Department had procured what it should have not procured without following 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,” Modise said. She also maintained that procurement processes would be followed by her department under her leadership.
The department has also insisted that any deviation from the normal procurement would be reported. Any other behaviour, outside, that will be dealt with so that we begin to get where we should be. If we allow any deviation, then we are in trouble,” she said.
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