Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told a parliamentary portfolio that she knew about the SA National Defence Force‘s purchase of interferon from Cuba but had no idea the drug was not registered with the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority and that procurement laws had been avoided.
The matter had also been tabled before the National Coronavirus Command Council, in order to provide interferon for the entire South African population, but no decision had been taken, Mapisa-Nqakula said.
TimesLIVE reports that the SANDF, through the SA Military Health Services (SAMHS) and Sahpra, were appearing before the portfolio committee to account on the irregular procurement and import of the drug to the country at a cost of more than R200m.
Mapisa-Nqakula said when she became aware of interferon intended for SANDF members, she was puzzled by the quantity”, which was well above the total number of soldiers in the SANDF . “They were able to provide me with an explanation, which was that you cannot administer interferon to a soldier and then not administer that to the family who reside in that household because it is an immune-boosting serum,” she said.
“My immediate reaction was, but we cannot get medication only for the defence force, what we need. I will raise the matter at the meeting of the coronavirus command council, just to say maybe South Africa should get it for everyone.“I tabled the matter in the meeting of the command council not once, not twice but maybe thrice, but unfortunately there was never a yay or a nay on that matter.
Committee members expressed concern that only 0.001% of the consignment had been used and that in all likelihood the rest would amount to fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The SANDF was refusing to hand over all documents related to the interferon procurement to the office of the auditor-general.
Full TimesLIVE report (Open access)
See also from the MedicalBrief archives:
Hawks and SAHPRA raid for ‘COVID cure’ blocked by SANDF
AG: SANDF already paid some of R260m for Cuban COVID ‘wonder cure’