Malawi’s Minister of Health Dr. Peter Kumpalume, MP, has embroiled himself in a procurement controversy after he allegedly receiving a MK50 million bribe from fellow Member of Parliament, David Bisnowaty, and Nyasa Times has established.
The youthful minister has since embarked on a journey of intimidating procurement officers including a donor representative in the Ministry, a Procurement Oversight Agent, to press them to overturn the evaluation results for the procurement of three digital x-ray machines, the tender of which was already won by a company called Biocare Ltd, and the Minister wants the contract to be awarded to Bisnowaty.
The digital X-ray machines tender is in the legion of $1.6 million.
Nyasa Times sources within the ministry corroborated that it all started with Mr. Bisnowaty writing a letter of protest to Ministry of Health for having not won the tender despite that his offer had major technical shortcomings in that he did not offer to supply Picture Archiving Central System (PACS) against the tender requirements.
Two days later, the Minister started summoning procurement officers to his office to dress them down on the outcome of the evaluation process.
This is despite the procurement officers explaining to the Minister that the evaluation was conducted professionally and impeccably and that Mr. Bisnowaty’s company, Medical Consultants Africa (MCA) Ltd, had genuinely failed to meet some technical requirements.
The Minister under pressure with the hefty gratification from Bisnowaty, kept saying that he had Googled for the price of digital x-ray machines from manufacturers and that the price of one machine is about USD500,000.00 and that the price that the Ministry is paying Biocare Ltd pegged at USD 533,333.00 per machine is too expensive.
“Although we attempted to reason with the Minister that factory prices do not include other costs like freight costs, insurance costs, engineer’s airfare and accommodation etc, the Minister did not budge but to insist that he wanted the contract to be given to Mr. Bisnowaty’s MCA Ltd because although MCA Ltd was ranked No. 4 on the evaluation chart but was cheaper by about USD 60,000.00,” said Nyasa Times source from the procurement department who pleaded for strict anonymity.
“We tried to school the Minister that in evaluation we look at more things than just the price. If it was just the price that we were looking at then why conduct an evaluation? The winner would just be determined from the lowest read out price at the tender opening then. Every bidder is supposed to meet all the technical specifications specified by the Client in the bid which includes experience to supply similar goods in the past, experiences of installation engineers, after sales technical capacity among many other requirements and price consideration comes last.
“After blasting us and threatening us with dismissals it is when rumour started to make rounds that the minister was bribed with K50 million from Hon. Bisnowaty. There is no secret under the sun. The minister is now under pressure to cancel the contract so that it is awarded to his friend Bisnowaty,” added the source.
According to our source, the Minister did not stop there but went on to summon the Procurement Oversight Agent (POA), who is a German national, to his office to quiz him on the same.
On his part, the POA told the minister point blank that he did not see any flaws in the evaluation when he reviewed it and the evaluation report was further reviewed and passed by the Internal Procurement Committee (IPC) of the Ministry of Health, the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) before the contract was awarded and signed.
The POA went on to advise the Minister that any attempt to cancel the contract will have serious legal repercussions and that even if the contract is cancelled the award cannot be changed to another bidder. The whole procurement process will have to start all over again.
Some of Malawi’s key donors have since expressed concern over the summoning of the POA who reviews all procurement contracts to safeguard donor interests.
One donor agent who opted to remain anonymous told Nyasa Times the political interference in procurement is shocking, unprecedented and recipe for fraud.
He said the donor community has all the confidence in their Procurement Oversight Agent whom he had described as the man of “high integrity” and that he would not pass anything that is seen to be dubious.
The new Minister of Health seems to be in a big hurry to get rich quick. He wants to make hay while the sun is still shining.
Lately he has been clandestinely frequenting Bisnowaty’s drug manufacturing factory (SADM) in Kanengo and Bisnowaty also spends a lot of time at the Minister’s office at Capital Hill, in some instances up to 7 o’clock at night.
It is also believed that the Minister has lately been pressurizing Central Medical Stores Trust to procure more drugs from Bisnowaty’s company.
Bisnowaty denies any corruption allegation involving his business dealings.
According to the MP, his detractors are “cooking” up stories for him.
“I am hitting on people who are stealing money and they will cook anything against me,” he said.
Kumpalume could not immediately comment.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :