KARACHI: The health department is contracting out Regional Blood Centres (RBCs) established with a grant from the German government but instead of awarding the tenders through transparent means for its operation under a public-private partnership, the department has gifted the state-of-the-art facilities by violating all the rules and regulations.
Recently, the contracting out of two RBCs for its operation in Jamshoro and Sukkur were approved for Rs2.66 billion and Rs2.49 billion respectively to the Indus Hospital and Sukkur Blood Bank for a year, violating the standards set by the government itself.
"The RBC in Sukkur has been gifted to an unknown non-governmental organisation, which has no prior experience in running a blood bank and is attached with a 100-bedded private hospital while the RBC in Jamshoro has been gifted to the Indus Hospital, which failed to participate in the second bidding process," a health department official, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune.
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He added that the state-of-the-art RBCs were recently constructed and equipped by the German government through KfW Development Bank by providing a grant of €15 million, which is equivalent to Rs1.77 billion, for the establishment of a safe blood transfusion system in all the provinces, including Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Out of the total amount, €5.4 million, equivalent to Rs637 million, was allocated to Sindh for the establishment of four RBCs, one each in Karachi, Jamshoro, Nawabshah and Sukkur with the sole purpose to help stop the spread of transfusion-transmissible infections caused by unsafe blood transfusions.
Another official maintained that under the separate agreement signed between the donor - KfW Development Bank - and provincial health department, Rs251 million transpired in PC-1 for the operational cost of all the facilities, as the Sindh government's share in 2015.
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The health department and KfW had agreed to make the four RBCs operational by outsourcing it under the Public Private Partnership Act, 2010.
According to him, the tender for procuring the management services of eligible organisations was sought and initiated in 2016. In January this year, the Technical and Financial Evaluation Committee (TFEC), including the additional technical health secretary, public-private partnership unit director, Safe Blood Transfusion Authority Sindh secretary and public-private partnership node director, gave its report to Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho, who had recently taken up charge as head of the department.
While revealing the flawed contracting out he remarked, "The report declared the Sukkur Blood Bank technically disqualified for being able to score 27 points only, while the minimum points required to participate in the bid was 70. However, Hussaini Blood Bank and The Indus Hospital were qualified on technical terms."
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He said the health secretary wanted the public-private partnership node director to accommodate the Sukkur Blood Bank, which was later declined and the secretary, while scuttling the entire process, reinitiated the tender in July this year.
"In the meantime, half a dozen known organisations working in blood bank services were pressurised with a threat of being 'black-listed'. Only the Sukkur Blood Bank was facilitated to submit the tender this time. However, the health department convinced the Indus Hospital to submit their tender documents that were received after the last date of submission in August this year," the health department official revealed.
The entire process of the qualification and scoring was conducted by the non-technical committee members outside the bid validity period. No pathologist or haemoatologist with the knowledge of the blood transfusion system was taken on board. The contracts of two RBCs have been given at the cumulative cost of more than Rs5 billion against the initial allocation of Rs251 million in PC-1 in 2015.
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However, talking to The Express Tribune, Pechuho remarked that the reason for reinitiating the contracting out process of RBCs after he assumed charge as health secretary was a violation of rules and regulations in bid evaluation report. He added that the lack of operators in blood bank service in the province was the main reason for the reduced number of applications in the reinitiated bidding process.