TI Nepal seeks action against officials in medical procurement scam
Kathmandu, April 12
Transparency International Nepal has called on Prime Minister KP Sharma to initiate stern action against all office-bearers, including political leaders, involved in the alleged corruption under the pretext of medical equipment procurement deal.
Issuing a press statement, Nepal Chapter of the anti-corruption global network also urged the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority to open a free and fair investigation into the corruption scam. “The crime of corruption premeditated by high-level government officials in the face of the adverse condition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put Nepal in crisis, is beyond imagination. This scam makes a laughingstock of the prime minister’s commitment against corruption,” read the release.
“Collusion between contract awarding authorities and intermediaries to serve their mutual interest under the cloak of government-to-government procurement deal time and again has brought a huge loss to the state treasury. Despite the slew of media reports about the recent procurement scam, the government is trying to brush this issue off instead of initiating action against office-bearers and political leaders,” warned the release.
TI Nepal also condemned attempts to shield the responsible authorities, and urged the government to uphold the rule of law.
The government had scrapped the contract with Omni Group, the medical equipment supplier, for failing to procure protective gears from China and delivering them to the Department of Health Service within the stipulated date.
The DOHS, which was vehemently criticised for awarding the Rs 340-million contract to Omni Group to supply medical equipment from China at an exorbitant rate, scrapped the deal on April 1 amid criticism over the authenticity of the procurement process and the standard of COVID-19 testing kits.
Earlier, the government had bypassed the lowest bidder and awarded the contract to Omni Group. This had raised many eyebrows and made the entire procurement process suspicious. Moreover, it was revealed that COVID-19 testing kits worth almost Rs 70 million that the government purchased from China did not meet World Health Organisation standards. Many countries have banned the use of such kits.
Initially, the government defended the procurement stating that the high price was due to shortage of such equipment in the global market. Corruption Perception Index-2019 unveiled by Transparency International had ranked Nepal 113 out of 180 countries with a score of 34 and suggested that the government prevent opportunities for political corruption and foster the integrity of political systems.
A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 13, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.