The Ministry of Health’s (MoH) intention to award a K1.6 billion ($2.2 million) contract to supply ambulances to an international bidder offering a higher rate has attracted protests and calls for cancellation of the deal.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) said in a statement on Thursday it suspected corruption in the transaction to award Grand View International of Zambia.
Three local suppliers, including Toyota Malawi, offered lower quotations in the tender.
In a newspaper notice dated September 10 2020, MoH announced intention to award a contract of about K1.6 billion ($2. 2 million) to Grandview International. The notice shows that Toyota Malawi charged $47 800 per Toyota Landcruiser ambulance, which translated to about $1.6 million (about K1.2 billion) for 35. Nissan Malawi, for Nissan Patrols, quoted $56 224.61 and Mike Appel & Gatto offered $61 384.
HRDC national chairperson Gift Trapence, whose organisation has written ACB for investigation on the matter, said the deal should be revealed.
“It is alleged that apart from being cheaper, Toyota Malawi also offered two years of free service of vehicles… Given that Malawian companies were even cheaper, we are surprised that this contract was seemingly awarded to a questionable Zambian company,” reads the HRDC letter to ACB dated September 10 2020 signed by Trapence and national coordinator Luke Tembo.
But in a written response, MoH spokesperson Joshua Malango justified the selection of Grandview International, saying the low-priced local companies “failed due to non- compliance to minimum specifications as indicated in the bid document. These include the requirement that the ambulances should have raised roof, ground clearance and pay load”.
He said Grandview has also committed to provide free service of the ambulances through a local partner he only identified as Avis. He could not state how long the free-service period will take.
Toyota Malawi provides free service for two years or 50 000 kilometres besides a three-year warranty.
Commenting on the matter, a procurement expert Amos Nyambo, who is board chairperson for Malawi Institute of Procurement and Supply, said it is not always that the lowest-priced bidder is considered for a tender.
He said people must draw a difference between the lowest bidder and the lowest evaluated bidder. According to Nyambo, price is just one factor to qualify a bidder.
Said Nyambo: “Honestly, it would help to look at the technical report for us to make a conclusion on this matter. But I know many suppliers fail on the technical aspect due to capacity gaps.”
This is the second time in a year that MoH is caught in a controversy regarding ambulance procurement deals. Last year, we reported how a government evaluation team on procurement of ambulances cashed in on suppliers who flew them from one country to another for inspection of ambulances. The contract required a company to supply 300 ambulances, but was later cancelled.
Coincidentally, Grandview International was the successful bidder in the cancelled contract.
Last year, MoH awarded a K4 billion contract to Paramount Holdings to supply 74 ambulances without the Anti-Corruption Bureau vetting as required by the procurement law.