Hours after former Congress president Rahul Gandhi flagged the issue of huge profiteering in COVID-19 testing kits procurement, Congress demanded that all the transactions be made pubic.
Senior Congress leader and spokesperson, Manish Tewari said that the silence of the Modi government in this regard was deafening.
Demanding that all the all procurements which have been made, whether they pertain to testing kits, ventilators, or personal protection equipment related to COVID- 19, must be transparently put in the public space, Tewari said, “At what cost have they been imported, by whosoever and whom the order was placed and at what price has he further supplied it to the ICMR or any other agency given the fact that all procurements have been centralised by the Central Government, everything must be made public.”
Saying that non-transparency and profiteering is an extremely serious matter that hurts India’s fight against COVID-19, Tewari added, “We have to optimise the utilisation of those resources and not allow companies in the middle to make an arbitrage of over 60-65 per cent per transaction, 18.75 crores out of 30 crores. All procurements need to be put out transparently in the public space.”
It is important to highlight here that the matter of profiteering in COVID-19 test kits purchase came in to the light after Rare Metabolics Life Sciences Pvt Ltd – a company that has the distribution rights to supply COVID-19 kits to ICMR – filed a case against Matrix Labs, the sole importer of antibody kits manufactured by China’s Wondfo Biotech, demanding enforcement of their contract.
As per the information provided to the Delhi High Court, test kits procured from China, whose delivered cost was Rs 245 per test, were sold to the ICMR for Rs 600 per test, a huge mark up of 145%.
According to the petition, Matrix Labs sold the kits to Rare Metabolics for Rs 400 per test and Rare Metabolics and Aark Pharmaceuticals supplied them further to ICMR for Rs 600 (plus GST) per test.
As per media reports, the total amount to be paid by Rare Metabolics and Aark to Matrix Labs for these 500,000 kits was Rs 21 crore (including GST). Out of this Rs 12.25 cr has already been paid to Matrix but Matrix demanded payment of the remaining amount before delivery of the remaining 224,000 tests to Rare Metabolics and Aark.
At this point, as per the information, Rare Metabolics approached the Delhi High Court seeking the delivery of the remaining 224,000 tests which were to be delivered to ICMR. Rare Metabolics argued that the payment will be made as soon as it is received from ICMR.
Alleging that Matrix violated the contract, Rare Metabolics said that the Matrix had entered into a separate agreement to supply 50,000 kits to the Tamil Nadu government at the ICMR approved price (Rs 600 plus GST) via Shan Biotech and Diagnostics. Out of these 50,000 test kits, 24,000 have already been delivered, claimed Rare Metabolics.
As per the reports, after Delhi HC’s intervention, both the parties agreed that they will supply the kit to anyone who wants it at Rs. 400, which still is a markup of Rs. 155 per kit.
“Imagine, how many more kits the country would have got for Rs. 18.75 crores rather than 5 lakh kits, the country could have imported 15 lakh kits,” said Tewari.
As per reports, there are only 3 lakh kits left in the country, only enough for 7 days of testing.