Wide variations in pricing of ventilators, at least one purchase order given without the nod of the empowered group set up for ensuring availability of essential medical equipment and two companies to whom advance was released later not getting recommended by the technical committee constituted under the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS)—these are some of the revelations made regarding the procurement of the life-saving equipment for which money was allocated from the PM-CARES Fund.
As per information provided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in response to an application made under the Right to Information Act by transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj, 250 PM-Cares ventilators have been provided to DRDO COVID Hospital in Delhi and three have been provided to the All India Institute of Ayurveda, Delhi.
Bhardwaj had, in her application dated June 18, 2020, sought information regarding the details of hospitals run by the Centre which have been allocated money or have been supplied ventilators paid for through the PM CARES Funds, including the name of the hospital, total amount allocated, number of ventilators supplied etc.
The reply of the ministry dated July 20, 2020 stated that it placed purchase orders for 58,850 ‘Make in India’ ventilators and it provided the names of the companies, purchase order quantity and purchase order value. It further noted that the technical committee constituted under DGHS recommended only three of the six companies. It finally stated that 17,100 ventilators have been allocated to states and union territories.
As per information available on government websites, Rs 2,000 crore from the PM-CARES Fund has been allocated for supply of 50,000 Made in India ventilators to government hospitals run by the Centre, states and union territories.
However, a reading of the table containing the names of the companies, the purchase order quantity and the purchase order value provided in the RTI response shows wide variation in the price of ventilators. For instance, as per the table, each ventilator from ‘Allied Medical’ company costs Rs 8.62 lakh, while those from ‘Agva Healthcare’ company cost Rs 1.66 lakh each.
The details of the 17,100 ventilators allocated to the states and UTs, in terms of the names of the hospitals to which these were allocated, the number of ventilators allocated etc. could not be located in the public domain, stated Bhardwaj.
Another RTI application was filed on June 18, 2020, seeking a copy of correspondence through which the views of the Department of Health and Family Welfare were sought on the supply of ventilators from the PM CARES Fund.
In response, a copy of the communication between the Prime Minister's Office and the Health Ministry was provided. It was a letter dated May 18, 2020 from Bhaskar Khulbe, adviser to the Prime Minister, written to Secretary, MoHFW and reply from Secretary, MoHFW dated May 20, 2020. The letter from Khulbe noted that the Health Ministry has already initiated the process of procurement of ventilators based on recommendations of Empowered Group constituted for the purpose and requests a detailed proposal so that 50,000 ventilators can be financed through the PM-CARES Fund.
It stated that the entire administrative process of purchase and deployment of these ventilators will be done by the Ministry as per government norms of procurement. It also stated that manufacturers should be informed that the ventilators carry a distinct identity showing that they have been supplied from PM-CARES fund and are also embedded with a GPS device. The response from the Ministry provided a detailed statement containing the names of the companies, the purchase order quantity, the purchase order value and the advance released. It further noted that purchase order of Rs 166 crore to a company was given prior to the constitution of the Empowered Group.
Again, the table containing the name of the companies, the purchase order quantity and the purchase order value showed a wide variation in the price of ventilators. At least one purchase order was given without the nod of the empowered group as it pre-dated the constitution of the group. When read in conjunction with other the RTI response, it shows that at least two of the companies—Jyoti CNV Automation & AMTZ Basic—to whom advance was released were later not recommended by the technical committee constituted under the DGHS.