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“The private sector also imports under the Indian line of credit”

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP MP Prof Channa Jayasumana said yesterday (03) that the cholesterol-lowering drug Atorvastatin had been ordered by private supplier Sunshine Healthcare Lanka Ltd., under the Indian line of credit made available to meet urgent needs, including medication. MP Jayasumana said that out of USD 200 million allocated for drug importation, part had been allocated to the private sector as they too lacked sufficient USD to place orders.

Prof Jayasumana said so in response to yesterday’s lead article titled ‘Cholesterol drug purchase: SL to lose big due to dodgy deal with Indian company’.

Jayasumana said he held the health portfolio at the time the Indian line of credit became operational. “Therefore, I had to set the record straight. This particular purchase had been made by the private sector and not by the Department of Health, as a trade unionist wrongly alleged,” he said. MP Jayasumana was responding to a statement released by Ravi Kumudesh, President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science, regarding the purchase of atorvastatin by the Ministry of Health. Alleging that the purchase was finalized above the price previously paid and therefore the government stood to lose US$240,000 per month, the trade unionist urged the government to end the embezzlement.

Legislator Jayasumana made a copy of the corresponding invoice available. Responding to questions, MP Jayasumana said he asked Kumudesh about the issue at hand. The former minister maintained that it was a slippage on the part of the union. After receiving a copy of the invoice for the purchase of atorvastatin, the union released the statement on the assumption that the order had been placed by the Department of Health. India announced on March 17, 2022 a $1 billion line of credit as part of its assistance to help Sri Lanka deal with its economic crisis.

Lawmaker Jayasumana said that following consultations between the parties concerned, the ministries of finance and commerce have decided to allocate $200 million out of $1 billion for the purchase of drugs. Of the drug allowance, the State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) had received $126 million and the remaining amount was distributed among other importers. These are State Pharmaceutical and Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) 4 mn USD, local manufacturers 25 mn USD and private sector suppliers 45 mn USD.Prof. Jayasumana said SPMC needs funds for the purchase of raw materials and other services needed to manufacture drugs. In fact, SPC has never purchased atorvastatin from a foreign supplier, Prof Jayasumana said, adding that besides SPMC, there were at least three other local producers, including Hemas Pharmaceuticals.

Professor Jayasumana lost the health portfolio following the appointment of a new cabinet following the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on 09 May. Keheliya Rambukwella, who was health minister when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa reshuffled the cabinet, returned to the same portfolio in the new cabinet of ministers. MP Jayasumana said the procurement process has been delayed by some of the Indian vendors requesting that payments be made through their regular banks instead of the chosen State Bank of India for money transfers. Following the intervention of Pr GL Peiris, in his capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health was able to resolve the problem.

Referring to the recent revelation of shortcomings in procurement procedures following the review of the CPS by the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), Prof. Jayasumana pointed out that the country lacked the means to procure the supplies. essential. in short supply and recent media reports have revealed how the global community is supporting Sri Lanka’s efforts to maintain health services. In addition to India’s credit line and funds reallocated from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, several countries have provided medicines and medical equipment as well as much-needed funds, the former health minister said.

Jerry B. Hatch