Hepatitis vaccine scam: Chief secy told to preserve procurement record

The high court was hearing a case about alleged vaccine procurement at exorbitant rates

Our Correspondent June 27, 2015
The high court was hearing a case about alleged vaccine procurement at exorbitant rates. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the provincial chief secretary to preserve the record of procurement of hepatitis B and C medicines in order to foil any attempt to tamper with or destroy evidence.

A division bench, headed by Justice Sadiq Hussain Bhatti, passed this directive while hearing a case regarding the alleged procurement of the vaccines at higher rates by the provincial authorities. Getz Pharma had approached the court seeking direction for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to take action against the officials involved in the vaccine scam.

Those cited as respondents in the case included former Sindh Prevention and Control of Hepatitis Programme manager Dr Kazim Raza Memon, special public health secretary Khalid Hussain Shaikh, additional health secretary Dr Sabir Memon, two members of the committee for the evaluation of technical bids, Roche Pakistan Limited and Schering Plough Pakistan Limited.

The petitioner said that the Sindh government had, on November 28, 2014, floated a tender for the procurement of hepatitis B and C medicines for 2014-15. The authorities awarded the tender to two multinational pharmaceutical companies but local companies challenged it, terming it 'discrimination'.

The petitioner's lawyer recalled that the SHC had, on March 26, declared the tender process as non-transparent, illegal and unconstitutional. The court also held that the tender had been awarded to the companies at exorbitant rates.

The two judges were informed that despite the court's orders, the government had failed to initiate departmental action and criminal proceedings against the Sindh Public Procurement Agency officials for conducting a non-transparent and illegal tender.

Advocate Faisal Siddiqui argued that the government was reluctant to punish those responsible for the scam, adding that the health authorities had misused public money for their personal benefit. He feared that there was a chance that the officials could tamper with or destroy the record of the vaccine procurement to hide corruption worth Rs250 million.

The NAB additional deputy prosecutor-general, provincial law officer and deputy attorney-general, representing the provincial and the federal governments, requested for time to file comments. Granting their request, the judges directed them to submit the replies by July 15.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2015.

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