KATHMANDU, July 13: The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has been keeping a close watch on the purchase deals of medical equipment at government hospitals after allegations of irregularities surfaced in local media.
“We are closely watching the purchase of medical equipment at government hospitals after news reports were published in media,” said CIAA Spokesperson Jib Raj Koirala. “We will officially look into the matter,” he added.
A complaint was filed at the CIAA on July 11 against Bishal Pandit for misuse of government funds with the involvement of government and hospital officials.
Earlier, another case was filed on July 2 against Pandit stating that two firms - Hospitech Enterprises and Life Line Trade International - owned by Pandit were awarded 13 tenders worth a total of Rs 1.83 billion between May 2016 and June 2017.
The government buys medical equipment worth Rs 4 billion for the government hospitals every year while Bir Hospital alone has received about Rs 1 billion for the medical equipment this year alone. Bir Hospital under the National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS) has been accused of accepting higher bids against the standard practice of accepting the lowest bid. One of the controversial bidding processes in which the biggest and oldest state-owned hospital has been involved in is the recent attempt to buy a TomoTherapy machine, allowing only one company to compete in the procurement process.
Bir Hospital has been blamed for matching all the specifications to suit two companies owned by Bishal Pandit and another company, Biomed International, owned by Umesh Agrawal. The tender for Tomo Therapy machine at Rs 399.08 million (actual cost Rs 240-260 million) and CT Simulator at Rs 79.97 million (actual price Rs 65 million) were awarded by Bir Hospital to Hospitech Enterprises and Life Line Trade International owned by Pandit while the tender for Intra-operative CT with high-end navigation system was awarded at Rs 409.08 million (actual price is Rs 320 million) to Biomed International Pvt Ltd owned by Agrawal.
Himalayan Medi Tech was the lowest bidder at Rs 319 million (2 units) for the neurological BODYTOM machine , but the hospital rejected its bid even though it was Rs 90 million less than the amount quoted by Biomed International. The hospital rejected Himalayan's bid on the ground that the specifications mentioned in the tender matched 100 percent with the Brain Lab brand supplied by Biomed International Pvt Ltd, allegedly because the hospital had leaked the specifications to the latter.
BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Dharan, also recently awarded a tender for MRI-1.5 Tesla to Hospitech Enterprises at Rs 150 million. Interestingly, Pandit had sold the same machine at US$ 1,083,730 (Rs 100.83 million) to Dhulikhel Hospital on June 24, 2015. Pandit was awarded tenders worth Rs 1.83 billion from May 2016 to June 2017.
CIAA has warned that the hospitals would be booked if the procurement processes were against the established rules. “We will thoroughly examine the details. If they are found guilty, action will be taken against them as per the laws,” said CIAA Spokesperson Koirala.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has also started investigating into the matter. “We are working on it. We will bring out the report after completion of the probe,” said Dr Kiran Regmi, secretary at the MoH.