Govt Mulling To Assign Medical Equipment Procurement Contract To Nepal Army

Arjun Paudel

The government is preparing to entrust the Nepal Army with the task of procuring medical equipment required to combat Covid-19 too.

Following a controversy over alleged bid rigging and the price and quality of protective gear and coronavirus test kits bought from China by a private vendor, the government is considering assigning the procurement task to the national defence force.

The Ministry of Health and Population on Wednesday scrapped the earlier agreement signed with Omni Business Corporate International to purchase protective gear, reagents and other medical equipment from China.

“Sunday’s Cabinet meeting has decided to allow the Nepal Army to bring necessary medical equipment from China through a government-to-government procurement process,” said Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekhraj Bhatta, who is also a member of the High-level Coordination Committee to combat Covid-19. “The Cabinet has decided that the purchasing process would be coordinated by the Ministry of Health and Population.”

Meanwhile, the government is also planning to use local suppliers to address the shortage of protective gear and reagents.

“We have called the meeting of suppliers who can supply us protective gear and reagents at the earliest,” Mahendra Prasad Shrestha, director general at the Department of Health Services, told the Post. “Discussions are also being held to assign the Army to buy those items through a government-to-government procurement process.”

Of the 19 items including protective gear—personal protective equipment, gloves, masks and reagents worth a total of $10,390,400, Omni Business Corporate International had managed to supply only 10 percent of the total items.

The shipment was flown in from Guangzhou, China, on a Nepal Airlines plane on March 29.

The company supplied 75,000 rapid diagnostic test kits manufactured by the companies authorised by the Chinese government, Shrestha said.

“The test kits will not be returned to the company. We have assigned Nepal Health Research Council to test their quality. If the council approves of their quality, then we will put them to use.”

Shrestha added rapid diagnostic kits are crucial to prevent the outbreak of Covid-19, as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method does not provide quick results.

Omni Business Corporate International was supposed to bring the second and final shipments of the medical equipment from China on April 2 and April 5. But the procurement agreement was scrapped as the company was unlikely to make the delivery in time, Shrestha said.

Omni is also accused of securing the procurement tender by bypassing the competitive bidding process. A number of vendors had cried foul after the government awarded the contract to Omni.

There were also concerns over the price and quality of the medical equipment, especially since a number of European countries had recalled thousands of pieces of defective Chinese medical equipment, including testing kits and masks.

Shrestha, the director general at the Department of Health Services, said Omni representatives had not contacted the concerned officials at the ministry and department until Thursday evening.

With the cancellation of the contract, Omni has been forced to forfeit its Rs50 million security deposit.

– The Kathmandu Post

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