Legal bid to scrap government’s BBE requirements in Covid-19 vaccine roll-out

By Zelda Venter Time of article published 1h ago

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Pretoria – Although there have been delays in the roll-out of the country’s Covid-19 vaccination process, this has been caused by factors outside the government’s control.

In addition, South Africa remains on track to vaccinate the entire adult population within 12 months.

This is according to the Director-General of Treasury, Dondo Mogajane, in his answer to an application by AfriForum, in which it claims that the BBE requirements for entities to purchase vaccines will slow down the process.

The lobby group is asking the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to direct Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to use his discretion in terms of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act, in exempting all state organs that purchase and sell goods and services related to the vaccine programme from the usual BEE requirements.

AfriForum said that at the rate at which government was at the moment rolling out the vaccine programme, it would take 39 years to vaccinate 40 million people.

AfriForum said that if the purchasing of vaccines were exempted from BEE requirements, things would move much faster.

It said BEE requirements slowed down the process significantly, drove up the cost of services and excluded companies from bidding if they were not BEE compliant.

Mogajane, however, said the court should not entertain this application, as such an order would be in direct conflict with the government’s Preferential Procurement Policy Framework.

Regarding the rate of the vaccine rollout, he said there were and are many challenges, but government’s engagements with vaccine suppliers had been relatively fruitful under the circumstances.

Mogajane said that apart from the vaccine programme being on track, the Department of Health had also secured tenders relating to a substantial portion of the roll-out process.

These tenders had been awarded in accordance with the preferential procurement policy framework. Thus, Mogajane said, any order granted in AfriForum’s favour would have no practical effect.

Ernst Roets, of AfriForum, said in court papers these requirements would impede a rapid and effective distribution of vaccines, which need to be rolled out urgently.

“The global economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are far-reaching and will be long-lasting. In South Africa, the large increase in unemployment and income losses has entrenched existing inequalities. Although government will conduct a mass vaccination campaign, the threat of resurgent waves of infection lingers and the rollout is only expected to gather pace in the second half of 2021. A successful vaccination programme will allow for the economy to fully reopen,” Roets said.

The government should not place hurdles in the way of businesses that could help distribute vaccines in an efficient manner.

“Time is of the essence for purposes of the procurement, distribution and administration of the vaccines as rapidly as possible in order to minimise the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic as expeditiously as possible,” Roets said.

The government told the court to order that the application was neither urgent, nor did it have any merits, as it was “stillborn”.

Pretoria News

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