Health Minister eliminates tender procedure

by don aSokawijewaRdena

Two Memoranda of Understanding with the Indian and the Bangladeshi governments for the purchase of drugs would be signed by Sri Lanka soon. In future, those two governments would purchase the drugs from the registered companies and officially export them to Sri Lanka. Constant delays in obtaining drugs could be eliminated and the two governments would be responsible for supplying quality assured drugs, the Health Ministry said yesterday.

Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena told The Island that he had decided to cancel the tender procedure, which called for competitive bids, to supply drugs. But the drug companies which had obtained the tenders to supply drugs, surgical items, pharmaceuticals and consumables had been deliberately delaying the supplies to Sri Lanka. As a result, drug shortages were created, threatening the health sector.

When the drug companies delayed in supplying the orders, the Ministry had no alternative but to purchase the drugs locally at higher prices. It was found that the companies had a hidden agenda and were supplying the drugs to the local agents with high profit margins, the local agents in turn sold the drugs to the hospitals with an 11 to 12 per cent increase in prices, he said.

Minister Sirisena said that he had to take a painful decision to eliminate the tender procedure as the tender formalities were causing a myriad of problems.

"What has happened is that the drug companies that win the tenders, never supply the drugs to us on time. Then it creates drug shortages and we are forced to purchase the drugs through the local agents. The same drug companies are selling the unavailable drugs to the local agents at a considerable profit. Then the local agents sell the drugs to us with a further mark up of 11 to 12 per cent. In fact the drug companies are capitalising on the situation," Minister Sirisena explained.

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