Government—not contractor—chartered flight to ship medical suppliesAs per the deal, Omni Business Corporate International was supposed to ferry the goods from Guangzhou to Kathmandu.
Prithvi Man Shrestha
The government chartered a Nepal Airlines flight to take delivery of the first batch of protective gear, reagents and rapid test kits and other medical supplies, rather than the supplier Omni Business Corporate International, officials at the airlines said.
The Department of Health Services had, on March 26, contracted with the Omni firm to supply medical equipment necessary to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. It was supposed to complete the delivery of all goods by April 5.
But on Wednesday, the government terminated the contract unilaterally amid charges of irregularities after it appeared that the cost of most of the goods being supplied by Omni was several times higher than what other medical suppliers had quoted.
On top of that, it emerged that the government had chartered flights to take delivery of the goods. As per the agreement, the supplier is supposed to deliver the goods at the Tribhuvan International Airport.
It was not immediately clear if the government chartered the flight so the cost would be reduced from payments due to the Omni or the government itself would pay the price.
Ganesh Bahadur Chand, acting managing director of the Nepal Airlines, told the Post that at the request of the Ministry of Health and Population, the chartered flight was arranged to ship in the first batch of medical equipment on March 29. “The Department of Health Services under the Health Ministry has notified us that it will make payment to us,” he said.
The first lot of the medical equipment, worth a total of $10,390,400, arrived in Nepal on March 29. The remaining supplies were supposed to arrive on April 2 and April 5 by additional chartered flights.
Airline officials didn’t want to divulge the exact amount they charged to deliver the goods to Kathmandu from Guangzhou. Chand said he could not confirm the amount but said there is a standard amount to be charged per hour. An official of the national flag carrier, however, told the Post on condition of anonymity that the standard rate for a chartered flight is $18,100 per hour.
A flight takes around five hours to reach Guangzhou from Kathmandu. This means the plane is airborne for nearly 10 hours on a round trip. Thus, a two-way chartered flight between Kathmandu and Gaungzhou costs around $1 million. There is no difficulty for a private company in chartering a flight.
On Thursday, Flash Freight Logistics, a private company, chartered a Nepal Airlines plane for taking the delivery of medical equipment from Guangzhou.
Provided the charge of the chartered flight is also borne by the government, the procurement cost will be much higher. The Post’s efforts to contact some Health Ministry officials including Mahendra Shrestha, the director general of the Department of Health Services, failed.
The goods procured through the Omni cost several times the price that medical equipment suppliers had submitted to the government.
For instance, AS Enterprises, a medical equipment supplier, had quoted Rs 165 per piece of N-95 respirator masks in its proposal submitted to the government. But the government procured N-95 masks from the Omni at $7 (Rs 848) apiece.
A pair of protective goggles supplied by the Omni cost the government $18 (Rs 2,182). This is several times the lowest bid of Rs 360 per piece submitted by the Med Point International.
A medical gown purchase cost the government $16 (Rs 1,939), which is far higher than the lowest per piece price of Rs 450 quoted by Gurans International, a medical equipment supplier.
Suresh Gimire, president of the Chemical and Medical Suppliers Association, said the bid amounts included both procurement and delivery costs.