Tamil Nadu to return 24,000 test kits to Chinese firm

Tamil Nadu to return 24,000 coronavirus test kits to Chinese firm

Health Minister C Vijayabaskar said that the government is returning the kits as per orders from ICMR

Representative image (AFP Photo)

Tamil Nadu government, which had placed orders for 50,000 rapid test kits from a Chinese firm, on Monday said it was returning the first set of 24,000 kits that it received to the seller and announced cancellation of all procurement.

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Health Minister C Vijayabaskar said in a statement that the government is returning the kits as per orders from Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) on whose recommendation the rapid test kits were bought. He also rubbished Opposition allegation that the government had procured the kits from an “intermediary firm” not approved by the IMCR. 

“ICMR approved two firms Cadillac Pharma and Matrix Lab for importing these kits and these two firms have given dealership to several firms which includes Shan Biotech with whom Tamil Nadu placed orders. The price of Rs 600 was fixed by the ICMR and the state government procured at the same price,” Vijayabaskar said.

Also read — Coronavirus: Opposition questions Tamil Nadu govt over high price paid for test kits

He was responding to Opposition allegation that the state government procured the kits from an “intermediary company” rather than directly from the importer who is also based in this city for a “higher price.” The Minister also said that Tamil Nadu was returning 24,000 kits and has cancelled all procurement orders with regard to purchase of rapid test kits.

The parties, including principal Opposition DMK, cited the Delhi High Court order that capped the price of each testing kit at Rs 400, rather than Rs 600 approved by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).

The Tamil Nadu government had placed an order for 50,000 rapid test kits of which 24,000 have been delivered already at the ICMR approved price of Rs 600 through Shan Biotech, which bought the kits from Matrix Labs, also based out of the city.

Matrix Labs, which imported the kits from China, told the Delhi High Court it procured them from a Chinese company, Wondfo, for a price of Rs 245 each which includes the freight price. 

The company sold the kits at Rs 400 each to Rare Metabolics, which fixed the price at Rs 600 per kit for purchase by ICMR and states. The price issue came to the fore after the importer and the distributor went to the Delhi High Court to sort out their pricing dispute.

DMK chief M K Stalin had sought to know why the government went for a “non-transparent” method in procuring these kits even as it battles a shortage of funds. 

VCK chief Thol. Thirumavalavan’s asked the government to clarify why it chose to buy the kits from an intermediary company rather than procuring them directly from the importer, who is also based in Chennai.

“The company, Matrix Labs, that sold the kits to Shan Biotech at Rs 400 per piece is also from Chennai. If the government had inked a pact with Matrix Labs, it could have saved Rs 200 per kit. Why and how did this happen? The government should explain and be transparent about the process,” Thirumavalavan said. AMMK leader T T V Dhinakaran demanded a white paper on the procurement process.