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TISL files FR case over controversial pharmaceutical procurement via Indian Credit Line

Entire Cabinet, NMRA, Health Services Director General, Bribery Commission Customs and two Indian companies named among 47 respondents.

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) yesterday filed a fundamental rights petition (SC/FR 65/2023) in the Supreme Court naming 47 Respondents, in relation to the steps taken by the Cabinet of Ministers, Health Minister, the Ministry of Health, and the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) to procure medical supplies from two Indian private companies.

TISL said this case was filed in the public interest, and challenges the following: The role of the Cabinet of Ministers in procuring medical supplies through unregistered private suppliers, the role of the NMRA in providing a Waiver of Registration to procure medical supplies from unregistered suppliers, non-compliance with procurement guidelines including the emergency procurement process and Abuse of process by the Health Minister and the NMRA Chief Executive Officer.

In its petition, TISL alleged that the citizens’ fundamental right to equality (Article 12(1)) and the right of access to information (Article 14A) have been violated, along with serious disregard for the health, safety and wellbeing of the people and in total abuse of public trust and public funds.

TISL seeks further information on these transactions.The petition seeks interim orders against: The procurement based on this unsolicited proposal and the placing of any orders, Approvals for Waiver of Registration of 38 drugs, Importation of said drugs into Sri Lanka and Making payment for such drugs

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, Customs Director-General, Inspector-General of Police, Savorite Pharmaceuticals, Kausikh Therapeutics (P) and the Attorney-General are also named as respondents in this petition.

Sri Lanka has already received more than 300 medicine items as of December through the Indian credit line and hopes to complete all orders by March 2023, officials said.

From the one billion US dollar credit line from India, 200 million USD was to purchase medical supplies, with the State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) given the responsibility of placing the order.

Sri Lanka has seen medicine shortages since late June with the Central Medicine Storage running out of stocks.

The authorities said that, until stocks are restored, the ministry has implemented a central communication strategy to facilitate the exchange of medicines between medical institutes based on availability.

The SPC called tenders in March and, by April, the tenders were being evaluated by the officials.

“Of the 200 million US dollars we received, we allocated 55 million US dollars to the private sector supplier,” Chairman of SPC Sarath Liyanage said.

Orders will be placed for 674 medicine items and 17,88 surgical equipment, Liyanage said.

“So far we have received 74 medicine items through the SPC and more than 300 plus from the private sector supplier. No matter which sector you are bringing it from, the products’ origin must be India, which is a condition we have to follow.

“By December 31 2022, we have to place all the orders and we hope by March 2023, we will have received all the medicine and equipment we have ordered.”

The island nation is currently struggling with lack of medicine in the health sector and, due to high demand and the low supply, the prices have increased in pharmacies and people have reduced their prescribed dosage.

Officials said the Indian credit line is being utilized according to a particular procedure, which took the local authorities around a month to understand along with how the letters of credit will be issued to the Indian banks and how the orders must be placed

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