Kathmandu, April 1

Ramesh Paudyal, a Bagmati Provincial Assembly member from Bibeksheel Nepali Party, has registered a complaint against Minister of Health and Population Bhanubhakta Dhakal at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, for allegedly embezzling state fund in the procurement of medical equipment amid the government’s battle against the outbreak of COVID-19.

A press release issued by the party claimed that the medical equipment were found to have been procured at prices more than four fold the prevailing market rate. “When the media and general public raised a question over the suspicious procurement deal, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Minister Dhakal simply brushed off the allegation. As they said there was no need to speak much about this issue, we can suspect that something fishy is going on with regard to the procurement,” read the release.

According to the party, the Ministry of Health Population had procured various medical equipment, including rapid testing kits not recommended by the World Health Organisation and even turned down by various countries, at a cost of more than Rs 70 million.

The party said Joint Secretary Pradip Kumar Koirala, CIAA Spokesperson, had informed Paudyal about the receipt of the complaint of financial and policy corruption filed against Minister Dhakal through the website of the anti-graft body.

The written complaints read, “The MoHP invited a tender three months ago and cancelled it later in collusion with a company close to high-level government officials for the procurement overnight. The tender was awarded to a company within three hours despite the fact that it had no experience in supplying medical equipment. The company was not registered with the Department of Commerce and Supply Management, but the authorities accepted its quotation contrary to the prevailing law.”

Paudyal urged the CIAA to conduct an independent inquiry into the procurement deal.

Meanwhile, a press statement issued by the MoPH has refuted the allegations levelled against it regarding the procurement of medical equipment. “As the MoHP received no bid from domestic suppliers despite publication of notice of invitation for tender, the government held a joint discussion with the suppliers and companies for procurement and import of the medical equipment in fast-track to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

The rumour doing the rounds on social media will only lower the morale of doctors working round-the-clock to provide medical services to patients,” the statement read.