Covid-19 vaccines can be distributed without corruption, freight industry says

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  • Covid-19 vaccines can be distributed without corruption, players in the freight industry say.
  • The industry has developed a standard operating procedure, which it is submitting to the authorities for the distribution of vaccines.
  • Added to ISO management systems, the industry believes the guidelines will create transparency in the industry.

South African freight operators have developed guidelines for the clearance process of vaccines in the hope that this can stamp out corruption in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccine doses.

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Dr Juanita Maree, chairperson of the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (Saaff), believes corruption can be avoided during the vaccine distribution.

Her belief stems from operators in the extended supply chain having created a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the clearance process of international imports of Covid-19 vaccines.

The SOP will be shared with South Africa's partially state-owned vaccine manufacturer Biovac and Business for South Africa for adoption, Maree said.

"Covered in the SOP, is the scope, background, prerequisites and escalation information regarding the import processes," she said.

The industry is not the only body worried about corruption in the supply chain. Last month, Corruption Watch raised concerns about the threat of corruption risks in the procurement and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa.

The organisation laid out a number of questions to National Treasury related not only to transparency in procurement, but also to issues of oversight, transport, storage and distribution of vaccines in possibly the largest public health rollout in the country's history.

Distribution chain

Removing corruption at the supply chain stage was relatively simple, Maree said. She has advocated for monitoring of the end-to-end distribution chain once the vaccines arrive in South Africa, coupled with the creation of a dedicated tariff heading in order to monitor the export and transshipment cycles.

However, preventing a flawed distribution system needed to start with an audit of tenders awarded in the procurement process, said Muhammad Ali, CEO of WWISE, an international organisation for standardisation (ISO) training, consulting and implementation specialist.

"If the procurement process is not independently audited, most of the tenders are awarded to companies that have employees in the public sector who have a personal advantage of being awarded the tender," he said.

"The full legal requirements of the tender requirements are not always aligned, such as a valid tax clearance, or accredited BBBEE certificate and even unaccredited ISO certifications."

There are various ISO management systems that need to be implemented to govern quality management, the calibration of medical laboratories, procurement and to prevent corruption and bribery, Ali said.

"The fact is, most organisations do not have quality controls in projects aligned to ISO 9001, the standard that defines the requirements for a quality management system," Ali said.

"This can cause substandard work, which can impact clients requiring services. Often legal requirements are simply bypassed. South Africa needs to change its thinking in terms of certifications, particularly when it comes to an issue like vaccines."

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