The Health Justice Initiative (HJI) has welcomed a Gauteng High Court ruling compelling the National Department of Health to provide access to Covid-19 vaccine procurement contracts.
The court ordered that all Covid-19 vaccine contracts must be made public within 10 days.
“This is a massive victory for transparency and accountability.
“The contracts concern substantial public funds, and the contracting process has been marred by allegations that the government procured vaccines at differential, comparatively inflated prices and that the agreements may contain onerous and inequitable terms including broad indemnification clauses, export restrictions, and non-refundability clauses,” the HJI said.
“This significant moment comes as we begin to emerge from the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It sets an important precedent, especially as our government pursues National Health Insurance (NHI).
“With increasing reports of corruption within the healthcare sector, we cannot have a healthcare system shrouded in secrecy. Procurement must be held in check, as it will involve powerful multinational companies, particularly from the pharmaceutical industry.
“The secrecy surrounding Covid-19 vaccine procurement at the height of the pandemic continues to be a global issue, not just limited to SA - it is important to know what was agreed to in our name at the behest of powerful vaccine manufacturers who have been reported to have bullied governments in the Global South especially, insisting on contracts that ultimately made them huge profits, without maximum accountability and openness. Therefore, this judgment can be leveraged by other countries to demand open contracting in their jurisdictions.
“We believe that in the current Pandemic Treaty negotiations, where worrying attempts are being made to water down transparency, this judgment will support Pandemic Preparedness measures by bolstering provisions on transparency and accountability in these negotiations.”
The department said it would study the judgment and respond in due course.
“The Department of Health has noted a court judgment delivered by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday, 17 August in which the department was ordered to grant the applicant (Health Justice Initiative) access to copies of all Covid-19 vaccine procurement contracts, non-disclosure agreements and the related documents. The department will study the judgement and respond in due course.”
The National Employers’ Association of South Africa (Neasa) welcomed the judgment.
“This ruling marks a notable step toward transparency and accountability in the pandemic response. Whether the government will heed the judgment or fight the matter all the way to the Constitutional Court, remains to be seen.
“In the meanwhile, Neasa applauds the HJI on their fight against one of the biggest shams the world has ever experienced, as well as their efforts to expose all.
“Neasa will monitor the progress of this matter and keep the public updated on developments in this regard.”