Probe called for into Rs 100 mn cancer drug tender

PM’s office informed, action awaited

By Shamindra Ferdinando

An alleged attempt to procure an Indian cancer drug, Abiraterone Acetate, through fraudulent means is under investigation by Parliamentary Procurement Committee.

The Government Medical Officers Forum (GMOF) has recently brought the matter to the notice of Health Secretary Anura Jayawickrema.

The letter dated Nov. 4 sent to Health Secretary has been copied to Prime Minister’s Office, Health Minister’s Office, Chairman, Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption and Chairman, Parliamentary Procurement Committee.

The trade union had taken up the issue with the Health Secretary soon after its members brought it to their notice, a senior GMOF spokesperson told The Island. According to the official, the tender worth nearly Rs 100 million for the procurement of 22,450 Abiraterone Acetate tablets (250 mg each) had been offered in May this year under questionable circumstances.

The revelation has been made in the wake of the government finalizing Rs 990 mn tender for procurement of the cancer drug manufactured in Russia.

The official said there had been two major issues in respect of the Medical Supplies Division tender floated in January for Abiraterone Acetate manufactured in India. Having cancelled the January tender, it was again called in March and called off once again. Then the tenders had been called again in April and finalised on May 9 in spite of the local supplier failing to furnish the registration certificate at the time it secured the contract. The official alleged that the local supplier had obtained the registration certificate from a manufacturing plant hired by the manufacturing company in violation of existing tender procedures.

The GMOF in its letter to Health Secretary Jayawickrema alleged that even preliminary investigations hadn’t been completed. The trade union emphasized that the Health Ministry should conduct its own internal inquiry and take appropriate disciplinary action in addition to the probe undertaken by the Parliamentary Procurement Committee.

The official claimed that the tender evaluation committee had recommended that the registered supplier who had fulfilled requirements and offered the lowest price be given the tender. However, a senior official notorious for frequent foreign jaunts had intervened and directed the tender to be given to the local supplier now under a cloud.

Alleging that the official who authorised the transaction had received Rs 7.5 mn, the trade union urged the Health Secretary to conduct a thorough inquiry.

The GMOF spokesperson alleged that those responsible for ensuring transparent tender procedures were either turning a blind to what was happening or colluding with racketeers. The union official warned of dire consequences unless the government took tangible measures to ensure quality drugs at affordable prices.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...