Top military medical personnel “invited” to explain Heberon acquisition


Noting “concern” about the acquisition of medication not approved for use in South Africa by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), Cyril Xaba, chair of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV), wants top military medical officials to explain.

Speaking after a PCDMV meeting earlier this week where the issue of Heberon acquisition was tabled and discussed, he said: “We are shocked and accountability is needed”.

The committee “resolved to invite” Surgeon General Lieutenant General Zola Dabula; SANDF Logistics Chief Lieutenant General Jabulani Mbuli; chief financial officer (presumably of the SA Military Health Service) Siphiwe Sokhela; and the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) to provide further insight on the R260 million drug acquisition.

The PCDMV statement follows a similar one issued by Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian Kobus Marais in his capacity as shadow defence and military veterans minister.

“We need accountability on how such large consignments could be procured outside the rules and regulations set out to ensure safety, transparency and good governance and that there was value for money,” the statement has Xaba saying.

“The PCDMV this week received a special audit report on the financial management of COVID-19 funds by the Department of Defence (DoD) from the Auditor-General, which highlighted shortcomings including non-submission of information resulting in audit limitations, inadequate planning for the procurement without indicating how  the department determined the required quantities, lack of evidence of prior approval by Sahpra for the importation, no post-importation testing and breach of cold-chain requirements, which resulted in about 40% of vials’ integrity being possibly compromised.

“This, according to the committee, is an indictment of the department’s procurement processes and those responsible must be held accountable for the lapse. The committee further finds it unacceptable the contract used during procurement did not specify the quantity required and was only signed after the first delivery. These discrepancies are why we must investigate to get to the bottom of the matter,” Xaba said.

“The committee concerns are in the context of good governance and prudent spending of taxpayer resources, especially in a department perpetually complaining about inadequate financial resources.”