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Health Minister bypasses President’s orders on medicinal drug imports

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Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella—who returned yesterday from a three-night trip to Chennai undertaken on the invitation of a medical supplier he is promoting for a lucrative Health Ministry contract—ignored Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s instructions to follow established guidelines and submitted two consecutive unsolicited proposals from locally unregistered Indian companies to buy drugs under the Indian credit line.

According to Cabinet memoranda and other documents, he also attempted to broaden the scope of unsolicited proposals to include, not just two selected Indian suppliers (one of which is the company that invited him to India) but “other selected suppliers” and “other funding sources”. If this is approved by the Cabinet, it will grant Health Ministry officials—and the Minister—widespread discretion to make medical purchases from favoured entities bypassing the competitive tender process.

The Cabinet has so far sanctioned the Health Minister’s request to buy medical supplies without competitive tender from one selected company named Savorite Pharmaceuticals (Pvt) Ltd while approval for an unsolicited proposal from a second entity—Kausikh Therapeutics (P) Ltd—is pending.

Neither company is registered with the local regulator, National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA). And none of the drugs to be ordered from them is registered to its name by the NMRA.

On Wednesday, Minister Rambukwella left for Chennai, on the invitation of Kausikh Therapeutics to inspect its factory. A Health Ministry letter to the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought protocol assistance for the Minister and the NMRA Chief Executive Officer, who accompanied him.

When the controversial visit came to light, the Minister claimed on social media that “NO [sic] state funding was used for this venture, as I have funded my own travel whilst the NMRA was independently funded & as such, added no burden to the State.”

He did not explain why he would spend private money on an official visit to inspect the factory of a supplier he was backing for a large medical goods contract.

Minister Rambukwella first submitted to the Cabinet in October a proposal to buy medical supplies through an unsolicited proposal from Savorite—citing longer lead times required to procure the goods by floating competitive tenders via the State Pharmaceutical Corporation—under the Indian credit line. He included a clause saying “and other selected suppliers” to allow the Health Ministry to use unsolicited proposals on a broader scale in the future.

However, President Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies, in his observations on the Health Minister’s proposal, instructed that, as the proposed supplier is selected on an unsolicited basis, the prices and quality of medical supplies should be reviewed and negotiated by the Cabinet Appointed Negotiating Committee (CANC) or Health Sector Emergency Procurement Committee (HSEPC) “to obtain realistic and reasonable prices on par with the market rates and also the quality of the drugs.”

Cabinet approval was given subject to these and other Finance Ministry recommendations that supported the route of competitive bidding for medical supplies contracts. The Cabinet did not allow broadening the scope to include other suppliers.

Notwithstanding this, the Ministry of Health sent a letter to the NMRA requesting a “waiver of registration” for a two-page list of drugs to be imported from Savorite—instead of asking the regulator to assess the quality of the medicines, as instructed by the Finance Minister.

Separately, there are already multiple authorised suppliers holding valid NMRA registration for each of the required products ordered from Savorite.

(sundaytimes.lk)

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SC judgement on petitions challenging IGP’s appointment, on July 24

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The Supreme Court is to pronounce judgement on the petitions, challenging the appointment of Inspector General of Police Deshabandu Tennakoon, on July 24.

The petitions were filed by 08 parties including His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

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Lawyers helped Kanjipani Imran & Ganemulle Sanjeeva to escape from SL – Tiran

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Kanjipani Imran and Ganemulle Sanjeeva, who are wanted by the police, were helped by their lawyers to escape from the country, Minister of Public Security – Tiran Alles has said.

He has said this during a media briefing held in Colombo today (July 18). 

The minister also stated that the police has seized drugs amounting to Rs. 19 billion as well as 955 firearms, since the ‘Yukthiya’ operation kicked off on Dec. 17, 2023.

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“Japan ready to resume suspended official development assistance projects”

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Dr. IZUMI Hiroto, the head of the Japanese delegation visiting Sri Lanka, lauded the successful completion of the country’s debt restructuring process, noting that it has paved the way for the resumption of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects. 

These projects, which include several initiatives that were suspended last period, are now poised to restart, signaling a renewed phase of cooperation and development.

Dr. Hiroto highlighted that the international community’s confidence in President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s leadership is strongly reflected in the expedited success of the debt restructuring agreements. This achievement, accomplished in partnership with the Official Creditors’ Committee and the International Monetary Fund, underscores a remarkable turnaround for Sri Lanka.The high-level Japanese delegation, comprising representatives from the housing, construction, and urban sectors, met with President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat this morning (18).

During the meeting, Dr. IZUMI Hiroto highlighted the successful completion of Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process and announced that projects under Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA), including those previously suspended, are set to resume.

The discussion also focused on new investment opportunities in Sri Lanka, emphasizing the potential for enhanced cooperation between the two nations. The delegation expressed their appreciation for Sri Lanka’s economic progress and the swift achievement of debt restructuring agreements in collaboration with the Official Creditors’ Committee and the International Monetary Fund. They praised President Wickremesinghe’s leadership in navigating the country through its financial challenges, which has restored international confidence and paved the way for renewed development initiatives.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, recalling Japan’s invaluable support during Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process, emphasized Sri Lanka’s commitment to deepening economic cooperation with Japan across various sectors, including education and agricultural modernization. The President stressed the importance of resuming stalled projects under Japanese cooperation to further strengthen bilateral relations.

Additionally, President Wickremesinghe highlighted the critical role of the Colombo Dockyard, underscoring its significance as a key institution in Sri Lankaís maritime and industrial landscape.

The Japanese delegation noted that several projects that are currently suspended, including the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) Development Project, the Colombo Port Eastern Terminal Development Project, the Central Expressway Construction and the Digital Broadcasting Project, can be promptly restarted.

Additionally, the delegation highlighted the potential to resume the Light Railway Transit (LRT), which was halted by the previous government. They are actively assessing locations to re-implement this project, recognizing its significant potential to alleviate traffic congestion in Colombo city.

Both sides emphasized the significance of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in executing housing for low-income earners and other urban development projects. It was also highlighted that the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to promoting environmentally friendly projects and renewable energy in line with its policies and international agreements.

The Japanese delegation expressed their willingness to the President to recruit Sri Lankan graduates in the field of technology for job opportunities in Japan’s private sector. This initiative aims to improve the electricity supply sector in Japan. The delegation also highlighted the Joint Credit Mechanism (JCM), which encompasses projects designed to promote environmental sustainability by utilizing advanced Japanese technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.Chief of Presidential Staff and Senior Advisor to the President on National Security Sagala Ratnayaka, Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka H.E. Mizukoshi Hideaki, Chairman of the Board – Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) Mr. MAEDA Tadashi, Presidential Senior Advisor to the President on Economic Affairs Dr. R. H. S. Samaratunga, and the Managing Director/CEO of the Colombo Dockyard PLC Mr. Thimira S. Godakumbura, along with representatives from several leading businesses in Japan attended the discussion.

President’s Media Division (PMD)
18.07.2024

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