Health Ministry rebuts impropriety allegations

By Paulina Ndalikokule and Maria Hamutenya

THE  Health and Social Services this week sought to counter allegations by PDM leader McHenry Venaani and members of the public to the effect that a N$70 million tender for clinical supplies was awarded to a foreign company at the expense of the country’s entities.

According to a press release, the shortage of pharmaceuticals and clinical supplies in the country is well known to everybody and the ministry sought and received an exemption from Treasury to procure both clinical consumables and pharmaceuticals on an emergency basis from manufacturers.

“The basis of our request was, when everything is said and done, to save money, time and to be able to procure greater quantities to address the shortages. Subsequently, manufacturers were approached to bid for supply of the items,” Health Ministry spokesperson Manga Libita wrote.

She further clarified that the bids were sent to reliable manufacturers of clinical supplies and who have proven reliable capacity to deliver on an emergency procurement to address critical shortages and to save time.

In July Confidente reported that local firms that were awarded pharmaceutical contracts amounting to nearly N$1 billion by the Ministry of Health last year had brought the country’s public health system to a near-shutdown after they consistently failed to supply more than 60 percent of drugs needed by public health institutions countrywide.

It emerged at the time that the ministry had for months been buying much-needed pharmaceuticals on an urgent basis without following standard public procurement procedures due to the endless delays in processing tender awards by the hamstrung Central Procurement Board of Namibia.

Libita said bids were sent out to 16 clinical supplies manufacturers in Germany, South Africa and China. However, only two companies named Coloplast and Supra Health Care from South Africa responded and submitted bids.

“Both companies submitted their manufacturing licenses or proof of brand ownership of the products bid for. They were evaluated and items were partially awarded to the two companies based on the items they technically complied with and on price offered as being fair and reasonable,” Libiti said.

In response to the allegations, the ministry noted that it is committed to full accountability and transparency and were cognizant of the full public glare that is on the ministry, especially with respect to the quality of health care, service delivery and procurement.

The ministry reiterated that the current procurement of clinical supplies was done on an emergency basis to replenish critically needed stock items. “Several of these items were on orders with some local suppliers which have for months been struggling and failing to deliver. Some have opted to cancel orders because they are unable to perform. This includes some of those that the official opposition leader [McHenry Venaani] is referring to. (See report on his statement elsewhere in this edition.)

The ministry’s response comes after Venaani said that government officials are taking advantage of election time to illegally award tenders to their friends. He expressed shock following the urgent N$70 million tender for clinical supplies.

Venaani made the remarks at an urgent media conference in Windhoek on Tuesday, where he said: “People are realizing that it is election time and nobody will take note of this tender, that’s why they give it to their friends.”

He said his party will not support unfair treatment and corruption in the administration of tenders, as set out in their manifesto which was recently launched ahead of next month’s parliamentary and presidential elections. “We are objecting to this kind of behaviour and corruption happening in Namibia and we are eager to expose these things,” he remarked.

He stressed that the company does not qualify, given that it is not a manufacturing company, adding that any Namibian company, such as ErongoMed or NamPharm could easily have qualified, given an opportunity to tender.

“This tender was given to a company that is also a middleman company and not a manufacturer of items that they are supposed to procure, just like the Namibian middleman companies.”  These are the reasons why thousands of Namibian you are queuing for 12 jobs at central hospital.” Venaani fumed.