South Africa: Advocacy Group Makes Court Bid to Lift Veil of Secrecy Over SA’s Covid Vaccine Procurement

The Pretoria High Court has reserved judgment in the Health Justice Initiative’s appeal against the government’s refusal to make several documents relating to the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines public.

The advocacy group Health Justice Initiative (HJI) on Tuesday asked the Pretoria High Court to compel the National Department of Health to disclose a series of documents relating to South Africa’s procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

Director of the HJI Fatima Hassan, said the public’s constitutional right to access information about public procurement had been flouted.

To date, the content of South Africa’s procurement agreements for Covid-19 vaccines with pharmaceutical companies, including the complete details of the contracting parties, remains a secret.

“These vaccines have been procured at great cost,” Hassan said. “The actual cost has not been disclosed, although the 2021 National Budget allocated an amount of R10-billion for the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines.

“It is for this reason that in 2021 the HJI used South Africa’s access to information law, the Promotion of Access to Information Act (commonly referred to as ‘PAIA’) to request access to the vaccine procurement contracts. The government refused.

“There is a heightened need for transparency and accountability especially during a national disaster, where several of the usual checks and balances are limited.

“Disclosure is even more important in the health sector following serious allegations that globally, powerful pharmaceutical companies bullied countries into signing secret…

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