Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
3 minute read
22 Feb 2021
12:01 pm

MPs demand ‘real accountability’ on vaccine roll-out plan

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said the party would be arguing for the setting up of an ad hoc committee to oversee the work done by the interministerial committee headed by Deputy President David Mabuza

Healthcare workers administer the first batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto on 17 February 2021. Picture: Michel Bega

Lawmakers are expected to demand answers on the supposed veil of secrecy surrounding the government’s vaccine procurement and roll-out plans at a parliamentary debate on Tuesday.

This follows the DA stopping short of dragging the government to court to force it to reveals details of the roll-out plan last week.

As the first phase of the programme aimed at healthcare workers crawled on, with limited sites causing long queues at some hospitals, politicians want the government to open itself up to more scrutiny.

Also Read:DA withdraws vaccine roll-out court challenge

The debate was requested by DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone in order for Parliament to interrogate its role in the government’s response to the pandemic.  DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said the party would be arguing for the setting up of  ad hoc committee to oversee the work done by the interministerial committee (IMC) headed by Deputy President David Mabuza.

Also Read:Lamola raises eyebrows over “no need for Covid-19 anti-corruption unit” comment

“It’s quite important that the ad hoc committee mirrors the 16 ministries that will be represented by the IMC in order to make sure that we don’t deal with matters of corruption and delay. The task is momentous and huge and therefore means we need an IMC accountable to Parliament to ensure this process is expedited,” Gwarube said.

The party will also be pushing for the tabling of a comprehensive roll-out plan to be updated on a regular basis.

The Inkatha Freedom Party will challenge the government and Parliament to create a more cohesive reporting structure for the the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).

“The problem is that Parliament has been insufficiently capacitated to conduct its oversight responsibilities. The fundamental issue here is the government has put together an IMC and those generally tend to not have a reporting structure to Oarliament. There was one and another on service delivery but they have fallen through the cracks,” said IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa.

The IFP said it was concerned about the lack of transparency and delays in the procurement and roll out of vaccines.

“We  welcome the 80 000 vaccines that have already arrived but that is just a drop in the ocean in terms of the population of South Africa. We remain concerned the government has simply become a lone ranger and runaway train in the absence of a structured platform for any real accountability and oversight. So the debate tomorrow could not have come at a more timely moment. We also want to challenge Parliament to take decisive steps in as far as oversight is concerned.”

At the weekend, the Department of Health announced that just more than 10 000 healthcare workers had been vaccinated through the Sisonke Program, a public-private partnership.

Saturday marked the first day of the roll out to healthcare workers in the private sector. To date, the programme has vaccinated more than 3 000 healthcare workers in the private sector.

Also Read: Also Read: One-third of 80 000 vaccines will be allocated to private sector in the next 14 days

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides 57% protection against moderate-severe disease, 85% protection against severe disease and 100% protection against death, based on evidence from the clinical trials that included South African participants.

The national Department of Health and the Sisonke Programme have allocated one third of all vaccine doses
available to private healthcare workers. This means that one third of the first 80 000 vaccines will be allocated to the private sector over the next 14 days.

A long queue of private and public healthcare workers at the Steve Biko Hospital in Pretoria at the weekend caused outrage as concerns were raised that there were bottlenecks in the program.

“The department saw the long queues as a vote of faith in the public healthcare system’s ability to deliver the vaccines. The confidence by healthcare workers in the vaccine and the protection it offers is evident in the queues and higher than planned demand from doctors and nurses across the country,” said department spokesperson Popo Maja. 


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