NHM makes mockery of tendering process

Supply of nutritiol supplement under JSSK scheme

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, Nov 20: It was a loaded dice thrown by the tiol Health Mission to favour just one party in a tendering process, while keeping out the others.

Stark discrepancies have come to light in the manner in which the NHM floated an open tender and awarded the work of supply of nutritiol supplement under the Centrally-funded Jani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) to a private firm in March last.

Sample this: According to the eligibility criteria stipulated in the tender document by the NHM authorities here, the average turnover of the manufacturer of the offered product for the last three fincial years should not be less than Rs 500 crore. Another clause was incorporated, laying down that the average annual turnover of the manufacturer of the offered product only during the last three fiscals should be not less than Rs 50 crore.

These two clauses, which many feel were against the essence of competitive bidding, restricted the number of bidders. In fact, allegations are that the second clause opened the door for only one favoured group which eventually bagged the contract worth Rs 2,022.69 lakh.

According to Central Vigilance Commission guidelines, if a work's estimated cost is Rs 15 crore, the criteria for average turnover in the last five years should be Rs 15 crore.  Accordingly therefore, fixing the annual turnover at over Rs 500 crore for a work worth Rs 20 crore is not in keeping with the guidelines.

Moreover, while procuring drugs from private firms, the NHM office here insists on an average annual turnover of just Rs 50 crore only, even if the supply is worth more than Rs 20 crore.

That is not all. As per another clause incorporated in the tender document, the supplied item should have a shelf-life of minimum nine months from the date of manufacture. The shelf-life was curiously kept at this minimum level even though the self-life for drugs is a minimum of two years.

Not surprisingly, the product offered - Mother Horlicks of Glaxo-Smith Kline - by the supplier had the lowest shelf-life (nine months) as compared to the other four bidders - all of which had offered products with shelf-life ranging from 12 months to 18 months.

It is also learnt that the tendering committee, in its pre-bid meeting on March 12, had sought a re-consideration of the clauses incorporated regarding the manufacturer's turnover. In fact it had asked the NHM authority to consider if the average annual turnover can be reduced.

The recommendation was, however, rejected by the NHM authorities.

It is learnt that the same firm based in Guwahati has been getting the contract for the supply of the nutritiol supplement since the last four fincial years.

While the origil last date for submission of the bid documents was March 26, it was postponed by a day after the NHM realized that the fat content (of the supplied item) inserted in the tender document was 10 gm-13 gm, which is medically impermissible for pregnt women.

The NHM then issued a corrigendum changing the requisite fat content in the product to 1.0 gm-1.3 gm. However, the earlier tender documents - for example for the year 2012 - the fat content in the tender documents was 10 gm-13 gm. No corrigendum was issued and the product was procured by the NHM from the same firm.

Curiously, in a departure from the State's 'lahe lahe' work culture, the NHM authorities evaluated the five bid documents and approved the decision to award the contract to the firm on March 27 itself - the last date of submitting the bids! The order was placed on March 28 itself.

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