‘Fake news’: ICMR trashes claim it overpaid for test kits | India News

NEW DELHI: The Indian Council of Medical Research dismissed as “fake news” the charge that it had paid Rs 4,500 for Covid-19 test kits it sourced from China as a controversy of sorts erupted over alleged profiteering by suppliers of the device crucial for the fight against the pandemic.
The ICMR also said it had paid no money for faulty kits procured from China. “This is fake news. Price range approved by ICMR is Rs 740-1,150 for RT-PCR and Rs 528-795 for rapid test. No test has been procured at Rs 4,500. Any Indian company wanting to supply at lower rates is welcome to contact ICMR or Ms Anu Nagar, JS Health Research (01123736222),” the ICMR tweeted.

The response, unusually strong for a staid professional body, came after Congress’s Udit Raj put out a tweet levell ing the Rs 4,500-a-kit charge. The former MP based the allegation on another tweet alleging hefty profits being extracted by a Gujarat company even as he himself kept a safe distance from it. “This is being circulated on social media. It is difficult to ascertain the truth,” Raj had posted.
Underlining that procurement decisions were made amid the cut-throat global scramble for the scarce test kits with various countries deploying “their full might, monetary and diplomatic, to acquire them”, the council said its first at tempt to procure rapid antibody kits did not elicit any response from the suppliers.
However, in its second attempt — which got adequate response — it identified kits from two firms (Biomedemics and Wondfo), taking sensitivity and specificity into account. Both had the requisite international certifications, ICMR said. “For Wondfo, the evaluation committee got four bids and the corresponding quotes received were Rs 1,204, Rs 1,200, Rs 844 and Rs 600. Accordingly, the bid offer of Rs 600 was considered as L-1,” ICMR said in a statement.
It said while it had tried to cut out the suppliers by trying to procure the kits directly from Wondfo in China through India’s consul general, the effort came to naught because the Chinese firm refused to give any commitment with regard to logistics, insisted on 100% direct advance without offering any guarantee.
Further, Wondfo refused to commit to timelines and quoted the rates in US dollars without any clause to factor in fluctuations in exchange rates, ICMR said. It was in this context that the council decided to go for Wondfo’s exclusive distributor in India for the kit, which quoted an all-inclusive price without any clause for advance, the body said.
Emphasising that India needed to procure kits, it said, “Testing is one of the most crucial weapons to fight Covid-19 and ICMR is doing everything it can to ramp up testing. This requires procurement of kits and supplying them to states.”

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