Coronavirus: Faulty Chinese testing-kits recalled; government says no payment made
The central government on Monday clarified that no payment has been made for the faulty rapid antibody testing kits it had procured from China. The clarification comes in the midst of a revelation that the government "overpaid" for the testing kits. The kits were eventually found to be defective and the government has now ordered states to stop using them and return them.
Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary said during Monday's press briefing that a tender had been signed based on certifications for sensitivity and specificity of the kits. "When we received complaints about the quality of the kits on the field, the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) immediately reacted and canceled the order. No payment has been made," adding the required action has been taken.
The government has also released a detailed statement on the procurement of the kits. The government said that two Chinese companies—Biomedemics and Wondfo—were identified for procurement as they met the requisite certifications. "For Wondfo, the evaluation committee got 4 bids and the corresponding quotes received were Rs. 1,204, Rs. 1,200, Rs. 844 and Rs. 600. Accordingly, bid-offer of Rs. 600 was considered as L-1."
The statement added, "It needs to be also remembered that this was the first-ever effort by any Indian agency to procure such kits and the rate quoted by the bidders was the only reference point."
The government said that when the ICMR tried to procure kits directly from Wondfo through CGI, it ran into issues such as a "100% direct advance without any guarantees." Hence, it was decided to go with Wondfo's exclusive distributor for India instead, who quoted an "all-inclusive price for 'Free on Board' (logistics) without any clause for advance."
The government said when the kits failed quality checks conducted by the ICMR, the order was canceled. The reason stated for the cancellation of the order is that the kits were found to be "underperforming." The government further clarified that since it didn't opt for procurement by making a 100% advance amount, it "does not stand to lose a single rupee."
The government's clarification came after court documents from a legal dispute in the Delhi High Court between the kits' importer and distributor surfaced. Reportedly, the documents revealed that the kits were imported by Matrix Labs for Rs. 245 per test, which sold them to the distributor Rare Metabolics Life Sciences at Rs. 400. Rare Metabolics sold the kits to the government at Rs. 600.
Now, the ICMR has also issued an advisory asking all states to stop using the kits of Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics kits and "return them to be sent back to the suppliers."
When asked about the availability of RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) kits during the press briefing, Agarwal clarified that "there is no dearth" of those kits. However, he could not state the exact number of kits available in India. RT-PCR is notably used for the confirmatory test of COVID-19, while the rapid antibody kits are used for surveillance.