Military to explain Heberon acquisition – again


Senior military officers, including Lieutenant General Zola Dabula, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Surgeon General, will be called to Parliament for a second time to explain the rationale behind the acquisition of an unapproved Cuban drug.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) “resolved to reconvene a meeting” with Dabula, Chief Financial Officer Siphiwe Sokhela, Logistics Chief Lieutenant General Jabulani Mbuli and the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). This, Parliamentary Communication Services has it, is “to further understand the reasons behind the procurement of Heberon and receive answers not given due to time constraints”.

Wednesday’s PCDMV meeting followed the committee’s “engagement” with the Office of the Auditor General on the Department of Defence’s (DoD) financial management of COVID-19 funds allocated to it.

“Due to the severity and volume of information given, the committee considered it prudent to schedule another meeting to further discuss the matter,” committee chair Cyril Xaba, said.

The committee found it unacceptable that some DoD officials “are deliberately withholding information from the Office of the Auditor-General that would enable it to conclude its special audit”.

“The deliberate withholding of information on the procurement of Heberon, procured for R260.59 million by the DoD is unacceptable and undermines the authority of Parliament and the committee, as a clear instruction was given to DoD during 3 February meeting to make the information available,” Xaba said.

“The disregard of a Parliamentary instruction gives an impression of lack of transparency, which undermines accountability. Further, withholding information undermines the assurance 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 a meeting between the DoD and SAHPRA to discuss a way forward regarding procurement of Heberon in contravention of Section 21 of the Medicines Act has been frustrated by members of the defence force.

“The committee remains concerned that medication procurement policy and regulatory prescripts were broken when Heberon was procured. To this end, the committee notes the Minister 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,” Xaba said.