- Supplier wants to recover his dues
Up for sale: a K620 million CT scanner that government bought in 2012 but has not collected it from the supplier.
The supplier, Medical Consultants Africa Limited (MCA), decided to sell the machine to private health facilities to recover storage and service charges for another scanner installed at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe
“There is now no more room for excuses,” MCA chief executive Jonathan Bisnowaty said in an interview on Tuesday.
“The machine is now up for sale. I have tried to sort out this issue amicably but no one seems interested to help solve it,” he said.
But director of planning in the Ministry of Health Emma Mabvumbe played down the threat when contacted by telephone on Tuesday, saying the ministry was discussing the matter with the supplier.
In an interview last November, she explained that the scanner, meant to facilitate the treatment of cancer patients at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, was imported before securing a suitable room for housing it.
MCA in October last year, gave the Ministry of Health up to November 30 2017 to secure a room and enable the company to install one of the two machines that has been lying in the supplier’s warehouse for five years, according to documents we have seen.
Bisnowaty disclosed in an interview on Tuesday that the machine the company has been keeping in its company’s warehouse in Lilongwe is now up for sale following the expiry of the ultimatum.
MCA says it is selling the machine to recover K250 million that government owes it as service charges for the machine it already installed and has been servicing at KCH and for storage charges for the one that has been lying in its warehouse.
In May 2012, MCA won a government tender to supply two CT machines at a total sum of $1 737 547 (about K1.2 billion). The Ministry of Health paid the supplier for the two machines. Government only installed the one for KCH and the supplier kept the other in its warehouse.
Mabvumbe could not explain why the ministry has not paid for the services of the CT machine at KCH, only saying payment for services and storage charges would be dealt with after the supplier has installed the machine at QECH.
She told Weekend Nation in November that the building for the machine at QECH was almost ready and that “very soon it will be installed.”
But it was the same story on Thursday that what was remaining was wiring of the building with special cables purchased outside the country.
“The supplier will be asked to install the scanner once the contractor who is doing wiring is through,” said Mabvumbe.
Weekend Nation on Thursday went to see the building and found that apart from wiring works which were being done, there were no doors for several rooms.
Parliamentary Committee on Health chairperson Juliana Lunguzi has reacted angrily to the turn of events, saying it is unfortunate that the ministry has let the issue come to that.
She wondered how the ministry could fail to settle the debt all these years considering that the health sector mostly underutilises donor funds meant to improve lives of the majority poor.
Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe, in an interview on Tuesday, also faulted the ministry for dragging its feet in making available a room to house the machine.
While pleading with government to identify funds and pay the supplier, Jobe said the machine should just be given to any district hospital in the Southern Region which has the required room.
In an interview on Thursday, QECH spokesperson Themba Mhango could not say when the machine will be commissioned.
But in November last year, he said the hospital was referring patients needing CT scan to services of the Malaria Project within the campus that has a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) but added that it was expensive.
Said Mhango: “We need a CT machine because to run an MRI is more expensive than a CT scan.” He did not indicate how much the hospital was paying for the services.
A radiologist based at KCH, Suzgo Mzumara, said last November that KCH attends to at least 30 patients daily in need of CT scan services.
“CT scanner is a crucial machine. Cancer patients are able to follow if the drug is working or not,” he said.
The ministry on October 1, 2010 issued a public tender for the supply, delivery, installation and commissioning of two CT scanners for KCH and QECH and also sought to award the successful bidder a five-year service agreement for the machines.
A letter dated October 23 2017 from the company addressed to principal secretary in the Ministry of Health which we have seen shows that the KCH CT maintenance contract was signed on June 7 2016 but remains not implemented because the government indicated that it has no funds to implement it.
Reads the letter in part: “The CT for QECH remains in its packing crates of shipment to Malawi by manufacturers since 2012. The accumulated storage charges to 23rd October 2017 were at USD 127 190. Related to the matter raised above, MCA will sell the CT for QECH if it is not installed by 30th November 2017. By not installing the CT since the government procured the CT in 2012, the government has demonstrated that provision of CT services for the Southern Region is not a priority.”
The letter further stated that government also faces the risk of the machine being unable to function on first installation since the equipment has lain idle for close to six years now.
Other outstanding issues raised in the letter include $6 560.71 and K720 000 totalling K4.9 million for repairs authorised and approved by the ministry to keep the KCH CT running.