Kidney Foundation Malawi postpones vigil, opts for dialogue: Dialysis operator Fresenius under corruption probe

The Kidney Foundation of Malawi has put on hold its planned vigil at State House gates in order for the government to swiftly address the current situation of the dialysis unit at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH).

From left Isha Mataka member of Kidney Foundation, presidential advisor on NGOs Kwataine, Mwale the chair and member Denis Nyirenda

The foundation has been rooting for a dialysis clinic operator Fresenius Medical Care  which is embroiled in allegations that the company paid bribes to in several countries  to win or retain business including  Malawi’s Ministry of Health that it should be given a contract for services to supply dialysis services to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe

Chairperson of the foundation Frank Mwale said the postponement of the vigil is aimed at giving chance for dialogue.

He said, in liaison with patients, guardians and Malawians of goodwill, they intended to voice out their concerns over increasing poor services due to poor and faulty dialysis machines at KCH.

Nyasa Times understands that Fresenius Medical Care is sponsoring sabotage of KCH dialysis services to prove their case that they should be given the contract.

The Kidney Foundation planned to march along the streets and subsequently hold a vigil at State House on Monday, January 18 to convince President Lazarus Chakwera to accept an audience so that they can canvass for the  Fresenius Medical Care  to be given the contract o of the KCH dialysis unit.

Mwale  announced that the vigil has been shifted as they have given dialogue a chance.

He said the will discuss with the presidential advisor on NGOs Martha Kwataine and presidential advisor on safe motherhood and reproductive health, Dorothy Ngoma.

“Time without number, the foundation has engaged the KCH management, the Ministry of Health and also held a meeting once with the Parliamentary committee on health and presented the challenges the unit is facing, but no solution was provided,” Mwale said.

Presidential Advisor on NGOs, Martha Kwataine said government believes in rule of law and that is why she engaged the Foundation to resolve the issues through dialogue.

She said within seven days they will meet again where response and direction on the matter will be mapped.

KCH is serviced by Nipro Japan through their agent Worldwide Pharmaceutical (WWP).

But when Fresenius abruptly discontinued to provide dialysis services to chronic patients at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre  risking their lives over payment , the Foundation did condemn them.

Ministry of Health has also been discriminatory in providing comprehensive dialysis services as they provided a dialysis at QECH using Fresenius with complete back of maintenance services for equipment but never did the same for KCH.

As a result  KCH had a water treatment plant broken down as well as dialysis machines that were getting poor quality from the plant.

Fresenius was supposed to hand over the machines to Malawi government after the first five-year contract as its properties but following the extension no price adjustments were made while Fresenius continued making money on the same machines.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC)  recently request to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to  investigate Fresenius for gratification of officials in Malawi to win contracts.

HRDC letter to ACB  follows allegations that the US  Department of Justice ordered it, in March 2019, to pay a fine of $231 million for violation of provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The coalition chairperson Gift Trapence said it  is high time that institutions such as Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) before contracting,  they should have have due deligence to some of the companies that come to Malawi  such as Fresenius Medical Care  which  admitted that it doled out bribes to officials in 13 countries including Angola, Morocco,  Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gabon,  Cameroon, Senegal, Saudi Arabia and also failed to maintain proper internal accounting control.

On December 15, Ministry of Health  officials wrote the PPDA requesting for a ‘no objection’ to award a three-year single-source contract to Fresenius Medical Care at the cost of K262 million.

In the same letter, the ministry also requested for a three-year extension of the company’s contract with Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) in Blantyre at the cost of K200 million [R3, 644,942.88] without openly tendering.

PPDA has since rejected the KCH contract proposal on the basis that the tender for the contract should have been open-source but approved the ministry’s request to extend the Qech contract by three more years.

In a letter to the Ministry of Health, dated December 18 2020, PPDA argues—in rejecting the request to expand Fresenius Medical Care’s dialysis service to KCH—that the approach the ministry took did not satisfy any of the conditions for use of the single-source method of procurement, as provided for under Section 37 (9) of the PPD Act.

“The procurement of additional dialysis equipment and supply and delivery of dialysis consumables and related accessories should, therefore, be realised through open means in order for the government of Malawi to realise value for money in the procurement.

“You are kindly advised to conduct fresh procurement proceedings for the supply and delivery of dialysis equipment and services-level agreement for the supply and delivery of consumables and accessories for Kamuzu Central Hospital,” the PPDA letter to the Ministry of Health, which Patrick Nkunika signed, reads.

It is alleged that Fresenius has doled out  bribes to officials in the Ministry of Health to get the dialysis deal extension despite even complaints of bad service they offered.

In Morocco, for instance, the department said the company paid bribes through a “sham” commission to a Moroccan state official in order to win contracts to develop dialysis centers at state-owned military hospitals.

The scheme worked by having the commission pay 10 percent of the value of the contract to the official, and the payment would be disguised as a bonus payment to a Fresenius company employee.

In addition to Morocco, Angola and Saudi Arabia, the company also paid bribes in Spain, the US  Justice Department said.

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1 year ago

If the company pays bribes to win contracts we can only guess what it has done to the vigil organizers to have them change their minds.

1 year ago

Koma nde mwantolatu chakwera. Mukakhuta covid basi mupange ma demo. Sort your families

1 year ago

Fresenius is a corrupt company. In all the countries they operate they bribe government officials and politicians. I am shocked that Kidney foundation can read between the lines.

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