KATHMANDU, July 12: Medical equipment supply to hospitals by some contractors shows how irregularities are perpetrated by government officials and the contractors.
Bir Hospital, the country's oldest and biggest, has been accused of accepting higher tender bids in some of the procurements.
The hospital has allegedly phrased its tender calls to match the specifications of only two firms, one belonging to Bishal Pandit and another owned by Umesh Agrawal.
Tenders for a Tomo Therapy machine quoted at Rs 399.08 million (actual cost Rs 240-260 million) and a CT Simulator quoted at Rs 79.97 million (actual price Rs 65 million) were awarded by Bir to Hospitech Enterprises and Life Line Trade International, both firms owned by Pandit. Similarly, the tender for an Intra-operative CT with a high-end navigation system was awarded at Rs 409.08 million (actual price is Rs 320 million) to Biomed International Pvt. Ltd., which is owned by Agrawal.
Himalayan Medi Tech had bid for two Neurologica's BODYTOM machines, quoting a price of Rs 319 million, which was 90 million less than the bid of Biomed International. But the hospital was able to reject the lower bid because it had mentioned technical specifications matching 100 percent with the Brain lab brand supplied by Biomed International.
At the BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan, a tender for a MRI-1.5 Tesla was recently awarded to Hospitech Enterprises at Rs 150 million. Pandit had sold the same machine at US$ 1,083,730 (Rs 100.83 million) to Dhulikhel Hospital on June 24, 2015. A complaint was filed at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on July 11 against Pandit for misuse of government funds, with the involvement of government and hospital officials. Another case was filed against Pandit on July 2 over the Bir tender and a dozen other tenders awarded to Pandit's firms.
Republica has obtained documents showing that firms bidding higher amounts were awarded the tenders for medical equipment. “Hospital authorities frequently set out specifications matching certain supplier firms in return for hefty amounts as commission,” said Sudip Oli of East West Concern, an equipment contractor. “In India if there is only a single bid for a procurement tender, the bidder should submit documents on its last five deals for supplying the same equipment, but we don't have this practice in Nepal,” he added.
Pandit denied he had any connections with government officials. “They are against me as they were not awarded the tenders,” he said. Pandit landed tenders worth Rs 1.83 billion from May 2016 to June 2017.
The government buys medical equipment worth Rs 4 billion for its hospitals every year. Bir Hospital alone received about Rs 1 billion for procuring medical equipment this year.
According to Bir, the regular budget for equipment is about Rs 200 million annually. “However, we are buying equipment worth Rs 1 billion in the current fiscal year as part of improvements to the hospital,” said Dr Bhupendra Basnet, director of the hospital. “We provide our services to people at the lowest costs that are affordable for everyone,” he added.
Dr Basnet further said that quality equipment certainly costs more than low quality stuff. “We have given priority to buying the highest quality equipment, and firms that were not awarded the tenders have levelled accusations against us,” he said, adding that they were aware of the misuse of state funds in equipment procurements.
Dr Basnet also said a piece of ENT equipment purchased at Rs 4 million a decade ago was stored away without having been pressed into service a single time. “This is misuse of funds resulting frm the purchase of low quality equipment. So we now purchase high-end equipment with assured performance,” he said.
“They failed to meet our quality criteria for equipment though they bid lower amounts,” said Dr Ganesh Man Gurung, vice chancellor at NAMS.
Bir spends Rs 66.6 million to install bunker
Bir Hospital has approved a sum of Rs 66.6 million for bunker installation for its Tomo Therapy machine, which is three times higher than the normal cost of such installation.
Bir Hospital's tender for a Rs 420 million (US$ 4.2 million) Tomo Therapy machine manufactured by Accuray Inc. USA was opened on July 4. The tender went to Bishal Pandit's Life Line Trade International Pvt Ltd which had quoted Rs 399.08 million. The Tomo Therapy machine (Radixact x7) costs between US$ 2.2 million to 2.5 million.
Pandit has quoted US$ 3.2 million exclusive of VAT and custom duty, installation cost of Rs 66.6 million, and maintenance cost of US$ 200,000, according to the bid details.
Pandit claimed that the total cost of the equipment was not excessive. “Installation cost includes disposal of the existing Canadian-made cobalt-60 machine. It should be sent to either Canada or India for safe disposal, avoiding radiation. Rs 66.6 million is not an unreasonable cost,” he added.
However, Rajesh Mani Ghimire, managing director of RB Merchant, which deals with the disposal of equipment, said the bunker installation cost should be only Rs 12.8 million . “The cost of disposal of the Cobalt-60 is approximately US$ 40,000 (Rs 4 million),” he said.