Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Dec 14, 2002
Industry & Economy
HC asks AP Govt to scrap Hepatitis-B vaccine tender
HYDERABAD, Dec. 13
THE Andhra Pradesh High Court has directed the State Government to scrap tenders floated for the procurement of Hepatitis-B vaccine supplies for the $ 25-million vaccination programme being funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Government had stipulated in its tenders during October that only those Indian manufacturers of Hepatitis-B vaccine having World Health Organisation (WHO) pre-qualification should participate.
While observing that the Government was free to stipulate any pre-qualification in its tender process, the High Court, however, has said in its directives that the Government ought not to have prescribed the WHO pre-qualification when it was fully aware that there was only one manufacturer with such pre-qualification.
Accordingly, the court directed the Government to scrap the tender notice dated October 30, 2002. The court was moved by one of the Hepatitis-B manufacturers - Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL), which alleged that the conditions specified by the Government were `arbitrary and whimsical'.
In its advertisement in a local daily here on October 30 for the supplies of vaccine, the Government invited tenders from primary manufacturers in the country with "WHO pre-qualification only."
Alleging that the conditions specified were tailor-made to suit only one primary manufacturer of Hepatitis-B vaccine in the entire country, BBIL submitted to the court during the first week of November that the Hyderabad-based Shanta Biotechnics was the only company with WHO pre-qualification among the five primary manufacturers. Besides, there are six Indian companies with multinational parentage that import and market the vaccine with necessary statutory approvals.
The issue assumed significance since the Government was then busy making arrangements for the Hyderabad visit of Mr Bill Gates, Chief of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Chief Architect of Microsoft, on November 14 to participate in the immunisation programme for the 1.6-million children born in the State.
Responding to the petition filed by BBIL, the High Court advised the Government to consider the tender filed by the company pending further orders on the issue.
BBIL submitted to the court that WHO pre-qualification certificate was specifically intended for the supplies to be made to UNICEF requirements and that the certificate was essentially meant for those countries where there were no manufacturing and testing facilities available.
The company also brought to the notice of the court that even UNICEF did not ask for the WHO pre-qualification in its tenders floated for Hepatitis-B supplies last year.
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