Representative image of a ventilator set-up. Photo: Reuters/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo
New Delhi: A Chennai-based medical technology company which received a Rs 373-crore order to build 10,000 ventilators from the PM-CARES fund has never made ventilators before, a Huffinton Post report has found.
In the latest allegation of arbitrary connections between PM-CARES disbursements and ventilators, Trivitron Healthcare received government orders to build 7,000 basic and 3,000 advanced models at a time in early April when the firm did not even have working prototypes.
The report used information accessed through RTI requests filed by activist Venkatesh Nayak. The prices quoted by Trivitron during the tender process were, according to the report, “based on the costs submitted by its competitors: the cost of the basic model is exactly the same as a competitor product by AgVa [Rs 1,66,376]; while the advanced model was Rs 8,56,800, just Rs 5,600 cheaper than the bid submitted by Allied Medical Limited.”
The report further states that the tender documents are vastly inadequate and made mention of only a single set of technical specifications, with no stated reasons for acquiring separate ‘advanced’ and ‘basic’ models.
While the tender was issued by HLL Lifecare Limited, which has been procuring COVID-19 related medical equipment and supplies for the Centre, Trivitron received the order from one Andhra Pradesh Medtech Zone (AMTZ), a PSU of the Andhra government.
“HLL gave AMTZ an order to manufacture 13,500 ventilators and AMTZ passed on 10,000 of these to Trivitron,” said the report.
The process thus had two steps, the details of which are unclear even to Trivitron. The company told HuffPost that it is now stuck after manufacturing the ventilators at great cost because no dispatch order has been issued yet. The firm, which had not made a single ventilator before the pandemic, reportedly went through great pains to produce them – but have not even supplied one to date.
“Other ventilator manufacturers, some of whom also won contracts and some who didn’t, have blamed HLL, the public sector enterprise tasked with procuring the ventilators,” the report says, quoting another unnamed ventilator manufacturer who said that the process followed by HLL was arbitrary.
The report also essays how a study of the prices at which HLL was willing to buy ventilators reveals a questionable disparity. “… the company agreed to pay a per unit price of between Rs 1.67 lakh for AgVa’s basic-model ventilator to Rs 15.34 lakh for the Elisa 600 model ventilator supplied by BPL,” according to the report.
However, both models subscribe to the same set of technical criteria.
The deadline for ventilator supply, earlier marked at June 30, was also moved with no fresh dispatch order in sight.