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Health Ministry censured over dialysis deal

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Gift Trapence

By Rex Chikoko:

The Ministry of Health has been censured for offering a K262 million three-year contract to foreign medical supply firm Fresenius Medical Care South Africa to supply dialysis services to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe, following revelations of corrupt practices in the United States (US).

On December 15, ministry officials wrote the Office of Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) requesting for a ‘no objection’ to award a three-year single-source contract to Fresenius Medical Care at the cost of K262 million [R4, 756,803].

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In the same letter, the ministry also requested for a three-year extension of the company’s contract with Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) in Blantyre at the cost of K200 million [R3, 644,942.88] without openly tendering.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson Gift Trapence said they would ask the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate the company following allegations that the Department of Justice in the US ordered it, in March 2019, to pay a fine of $231 million for violation of provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“It is high time that institutions such as PPDA and others, before contracting, verify some of the companies that come to Malawi hiding or posing as investors. Malawians want value for their money,” he said.

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PPDA has since rejected the KCH contract proposal on the basis that the tender for the contract should have been open-source.

It has, however, approved the ministry’s request to extend the Qech contract by three more years.

In a letter to the Ministry of Health, dated December 18 2020, PPDA argues—in rejecting the request to expand Fresenius Medical Care’s dialysis service to KCH—that the approach the ministry took did not satisfy any of the conditions for use of the single-source method of procurement, as provided for under Section 37 (9) of the PPD Act.

“The procurement of additional dialysis equipment and supply and delivery of dialysis consumables and related accessories should, therefore, be realised through open means in order for the government of Malawi to realise value for money in the procurement.

“You are kindly advised to conduct fresh procurement proceedings for the supply and delivery of dialysis equipment and services-level agreement for the supply and delivery of consumables and accessories for Kamuzu Central Hospital,” the PPDA letter to the Ministry of Health, which Patrick Nkunika signed, reads.

This came after—in a letter to PPDA, dated December 15 2020 which Bestone Chisamile signed— the Ministry of Health requested for ‘no objection’ for the extension of the Fresenius Medical Care South Africa contract to supply dialysis services to Qech for another three years after completing the initial five years.

“At its meeting held on 14th December 2020, the Internal Procurement and Disposal Committee (IPDC) of the ministry approved recommendations for an extension and expansion of dialysis service contract by Fresenius Medical Care of South Africa at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital and Kamuzu Central Hospital at a cost of R3, 644,942.88 for three years.

“At the same meeting, the committee approved an expansion of the services from Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital to Kamuzu Central Hospital at a cost of R4, 756,803.82,” the letter of request reads.

In the letter, it is indicated that, through the new contract, KCH will receive 16 new machines, consumables based on agreed project consumption and maintenance service for three years.

Health Ministry Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo— while acknowledging the PPDA response—said the ministry would still engage the procurement body in further discussions.

“Discussions are not over yet. This week we will engage PPDA on their response,” he said.

KCH in November this year shut down its dialysis unit.

According to the information posted at the Department of Justice US Attorney’s Office District of Massachusetts website https://www.justice.gov/ usao-ma/pr/fresenius-medical-care-agrees-pay-231-million-

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