State will release information on Covid-19 contracts


The organization Health Justice Initiative (HJI) confirmed on Friday that the Department of Health handed over the first part of the documents regarding agreements and procurement contracts for Covid-19 vaccines to its legal team.

This follows after the Pretoria High Court ruled in favor of HJI last Thursday to compel the Department of Health to disclose all information regarding the procurement of all Covid-19 vaccines.

According to the court decision, the Department of Health has ten days from the judgment to disclose copies of all agreements and procurement contracts for vaccines such as Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Pfizer. The department must also submit minutes of meetings and discussions with manufacturers such as Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Aspen Pharmacare.

According to the organisation, the department undertook to make the rest (part 2) of the documents available no later than 29 September.

“This means that the department does not appeal against the verdict. The HJI welcomes the Minister of Health’s decision in this regard,” says Fatima Hassan, director of the HJI.

“We believe the minister and the department will not appeal against this boundary-pushing ruling and that they have undertaken to disclose all meeting minutes, agreements and contracts relating to the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

“This sends a strong message to powerful pharmaceutical companies and others that transparency in South Africa cannot be traded nor is it for sale. There really is no place for secrecy in the health or any other sector.”

The HJI and its legal team are currently reviewing the documents handed over by the department to determine whether they are complete and comply with the court order.

The HJI will also analyze the contracts that have been handed over in the coming days. The joint analysis of the first part of documents, together with all the documents (contracts) handed over to HJI, will be announced at a joint media briefing this coming Tuesday at 14:00.

The analysis and documents (contracts) will be posted on HJI’s website at the end of the session. The same process will apply to the rest of the documents, which will be announced in early October.

RNews previously reported that HJI had already submitted an application in terms of the Act on the Promotion of the Right to Access to Information (Paia) in July 2021 to obtain the records, but the Department of Health refused, on the grounds that the agreements contain a confidentiality clause. Written requests for information were also sent to local representatives of the pharmaceutical companies involved. Only Pfizer responded to the request, but refused as the information “is itself confidential and therefore cannot be provided”.