Health Min defends ICMR's procurement of COVID-19 rapid test kit; says not a single Re lost

Health Min defends ICMR's procurement of COVID-19 rapid test kit; says not a single Re lost

Agency News

New Delhi, Apr 27: Finding itself in the midst of a controversy over the over-priced COVID-19 rapid test kits ordered by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for testing for antibodies from China, the Health Ministry has been forced to defend itself.

Speaking on ICMR's decision to opt for the rapid antibody blood test kits from a Chinese supplier, the Health Ministry released on Monday a fact sheet on rapid antibody test kits procured from the Chinese forms Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech, Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics, stressed that "ICMR has not made any payment whatsoever in respect of these supplies. Because of the due process followed (not going for procurement with 100 per cent advance amount), GoI does not stand to lose a single rupee."

The controversy arose after a legal dispute in Delhi High Court between the distributor and importer of COVID-19 rapid test kits being shipped from China unearthed massive profiteering and over-pricing in kits sold to ICMR. Delhi High Court single bench of Justice NajmiWaziri disallowed a 145 per cent mark-up from landed price of Rs 245 to ICMR's purchase price of Rs 600 per test and the price was slashed by 33 per cent from Rs 600 to Rs 400 per kit.

Explaining the background in which procurement decisions are made by ICMR, the Health Ministry said ICMR was doing everything it can to ramp up testing as testing is one of the most crucial weapons to fight COVID-19 and to procure kits and supplying them to states at a time when globally there is huge demand for these test kits and various countries are applying their full might, monetary and diplomatic, to acquire them.

This was the first-ever effort by any Indian agency to procure such kits and the rate quoted by the bidders was the only reference point. ICMR, which also tried to procure the kits directly from Wondfocompany in China through CGI, found that the quotation received from direct procurement was FOB (Free on Board) without any commitment on logistics issues. The quotation was on the basis of 100 per cent direct advance without any guarantees.

Besides there was no commitment on timelines. Rates were communicated in US dollars without any clause for accounting for fluctuations in prices. All this forced ICMR to go for Wondfo’s exclusive distributor for India for the kit who quoted an all inclusive price for FOB (logistics) without any clause for advance. After receipt of some supplies, ICMR has again conducted quality checks on these kits in field conditions. However, the order placed for Wondfo along with that of another make were found underperforming, forcing them to cancel disappointed with a scientific assessment of their performance. The release said ICMR’S first attempt to procure these kits did not elicit any response from suppliers. Its second attempt got adequate responses. Of these, kits of two companies - Biomedemics and Wondfo - were identified for procurement as both had the requisite international certifications. For Wondfo, evaluation committee got four bids and the corresponding quotes received were Rs 1,204, Rs 1,200, Rs 844 and Rs 600 -- the last bid offer of Rs 600 was considered as L-1. (UNI)