The Centre has decided to return up to five-lakh rapid testing kits procured for Covid-19 surveillance from Chinese suppliers Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics.

In a letter to Union Territories and State Chief Secretaries, Indian Council of Medical Research’s Additional Director-General GS Toteja said, on evaluating these kits, the results have shown wide variation in their sensitivity. After receipt of some supplies, ICMR conducted quality checks on these kits under field conditions. Based on scientific assessment of their performance, the kits were found to be under-performing and the orders have been cancelled.

“States are advised to stop using these kits procured from aforementioned companies and return them to suppliers,” the letter states. It is ICMR’s second attempt that elicited response from the suppliers. Of these responses, keeping sensitivity and specificity in mind, kits of Biomedemics and Wondfo, which had the requisite international certifications, were identified for procurement.

Bids from Wondfo

With regard to kits procured at ₹600 from a chain of importers, distributors and intermediaries, ICMR has clarified that the evaluation committee got four bids from Wondfo at ₹1,204, ₹1,200, ₹844 and ₹600. Accordingly, as ₹600 was the lowest bid, an order was placed for ₹30 crore.

ICMR chose Wondfo’s exclusive distributor for India who quoted an all-inclusive price for logistics without any clause for advance. ICMR stated that it had not made any payment whatsoever for these supplies. So the Centre did not stand to lose a single rupee.

ICMR also tried to procure the kits directly from Wondfo company in China. “However, quotation received from direct procurement was FOB (Free on Board) without any commitment on logistics issues. Also, it was on the basis of 100 per cent direct advance without any guarantees. There was no commitment on timelines. Rates were communicated in US dollars without any clause for accounting for fluctuations in prices,” ICMR clarified.

While the Delhi High Court has stated that kits priced over ₹400 should not be purchased, ICMR has said, “It needs to be also remembered that this was the first ever effort by any Indian agency to procure such kits and the rate quoted by the bidders was the only reference point.”

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