Kathmandu, April 26

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has started an investigation into possible anomalies in the procurement of medical kits that was initiated by the Department of Health Services (DoHS) a few weeks back.

The DoHS had procured medical kits required to test and contain the spread of coronavirus from a domestic firm called Omni Group without any competition. After the firm supplied the first lot of medical kits from China, it was found that the company was awarded the contract without any competition and that the medical kits were purchased at a highly inflated price from the company. Following this, media reports brought into light possible anomalies in the business deal which propelled the parliamentary committee to start a probe.

The PAC has sought all related documents from the DoHS on the procurement of medical kits from Omni Group. “Amid questions being raised over awarding the procurement contract to Omni Group, the government is learned to have scrapped the contract with the company. As the entire procurement process looked suspicious, we have already started an investigation on it,” said Rojnath Pandey, secretary at PAC, adding that a letter has been sent to the Department of Health Services today asking it to submit all documents related to the procurement process of the medical kits within one week.

The government, especially the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) had been charged in several media reports of purchasing necessary medical equipment at an exorbitantly higher price by bypassing the comparatively low-cost quotations from the private sector. Though the government had refuted any anomalies in the procurement process of the medical kits, it has already scrapped the procurement contract with Omni Group citing that the firm failed to deliver required medical kits on time and awarded the contract to Nepali Army.

Among others, the government had purchased shoe covers through Omni Group at Rs 240 per piece against minimum quotation of five rupees a piece. Similarly, the government purchased N-95 masks at Rs 840 per piece against minimum quotation of Rs 165 a piece. Likewise, it had purchased protective goggles at Rs 2,160 per piece against the minimum quotation of Rs 360 a piece, while infrared thermometers whose minimum quotation was Rs 1,800 per piece had been procured at Rs 7,800 per piece. The government’s move to bypass minimum quotation and purchase medical kits at such a high rate from Omni Group had raised many eyebrows and made the entire procurement process suspicious.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 27, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.