DA calls for Parliamentary ad hoc committee to oversee Deputy President’s vaccine rollout team

Please find the attached soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request the urgent establishment of a Parliamentary ad hoc committee, in terms of Section 253 of the Rules of the National Assembly and Section 42.3 of the Constitution, to perform oversight over the interministerial committee (IMC) headed by Deputy President David Mabuza that has been announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It is important that Parliament starts to play its oversight role effectively. The DA has previously called on the establishment of an ad hoc committee to perform oversight over the Executive during the lockdown. The Speaker held at the time that the Portfolio Committee on Health could perform such a function. However, now that an IMC on the rollout of the vaccine plan has been established, a multi-party, multi-portfolio ad hoc committee which will have direct oversight over this IMC is vital.

It is critical now more than ever that the Deputy President and this IMC are directly accountable to Parliament and the people it represents for the life-altering decisions it will be making.

Included in our letter to the Speaker will be a call that the ad hoc committee meets every week with multi-party representation where the IMC can report on their decisions. This will ensure the IMC’s transparency.

Up until now, government has yet to be transparent with the rollout plan of the vaccine. Reports today indicate that the South African government will have to spend double what some other countries are paying for their vaccines – a direct consequence of the fact that government did not plan properly and did not start the negotiations in time. This is why transparency is crucial. We need to have a detailed vaccine rollout plan presented to Parliament for scrutiny and input.

During this important phase of vaccine acquisition, we are yet to know from government how much is being spent on the various vaccine facilities; where the budget is being sourced from and whether the requisite procurement processes are being followed.

Parliament is not just simply there as an inconvenient stakeholder which needs to be briefed on decisions that have already been made. It is there primarily to scrutinize these plans and to represent the people of South Africa fairly and effectively. We cannot do our job of holding government to account if the response to this pandemic is Executive heavy and has absolutely no oversight.

Government’s response to the first wave of the pandemic proved that without proper oversight holding it to account, any plans would simply descend into corruption and looting of public funds as was meant for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other related products. This resulted from the fact that Parliament had no direct oversight on how much money was being spent, how much money was being allocated to provinces or some of the accountability mechanisms for departments.

All that is left of the billions of Rands meant as aid in a devastating worldwide pandemic, is stagnating and obsolete investigations that will not yield the punishment of those who have stolen public money. We cannot allow the same thing to happen again. We cannot allow government to not be held accountable.

We also need to make sure that government is prepared. It’s one thing to acquire a vaccine, it’s a whole other thing entirely to ensure that the vaccine is distributed; is stored well; that it’s not wasted and that it gets to every single corner of the country. This is why it would be crucial for the IMC to report weekly to Parliament on the various stages of the rollout plan.

It’s time for Parliament to truly flex its muscles as the national legislature and oversight body in this country.