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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Auditor-General's Report: How was the X-ray contract awarded?

THE Health Ministry's purchase of three X-ray machines at a cost of RM33 million has raised questions on how the contract was awarded.

Through direct negotiation with the Health Ministry, Syarikat Glotel Sdn Bhd was given the contract to supply two Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography Scan (PET CT Scan) and a Cyclotron machine, and to build the buildings to house these machines at Penang Hospital and Putrajaya Hospital.

The auditor-general found that despite the fact that Glotel was not registered with the Contractor Service Centre, it still got the contract.

In addition, Syarikat Allied Physics Sdn Bhd, the company sub-contracted by Glotel to certify the quality and safety of the PET CT Scan, was not qualified or licensed to handle radioactive material and X-ray equipment, as required under Section 13(2) of the Atomic Energy Licensing Act.

As a condition of the contract, Glotel was to have provided training to ministry officers on the use of the PET CT Scan and Cyclotron machines, as well as assist in obtaining a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) status.

This would have enabled the government to register the production of FlueroDeoxiglucose (FDG) with the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau.

However, this did not happen, as the syllabus prepared by Glotel was not done in consultation with the government, making the training unsuitable for GMP qualification.

Failure in getting GMP status has resulted in FDG, which is injected into the patient before a scan, not being registered.

Even more puzzling is how Glotel managed to get the contract to handle and transport the radioactive FDG.

Under the Radiation Protection (Licensing) Regulation 1986, only a company that has Class A and Class D licences could handle and transport radioactive FDG. Of the three companies that pitched a tender, only one -- Syarikat Intan Sejati Sdn Bhd -- had Class A and Class D licences.

In April 2005, both Intan Sejati and Glotel's tender were proffered by the deputy director-general of Health (medical) to the Health Ministry's Privatisation and Procurement Division secretary.

But it was Glotel that the deputy director-general recommended for the contract to supply FDG, even though Glotel only had a Class C licence.

The endorsement was made based on Glotel's offer to provide insurance for the FDG in case the PET CT Scan was broken and the FDG's short shelf-life expired from lack of use.

However, the auditor-general found that, in addition to not adhering to the Radiation Protection (Licensing) Regulations, this arrangement cost the government RM1,008 more per shipment compared to how much Intan Sejati would have charged.

Audit visits to both hospitals between January and February found that 40 components of the PET CT Scan and Cyclotron machines, valued at RM658,800, had yet to be used. Among the reasons for this was that the components had either been purchased too soon, or were unsuitable for use.

To all these queries, the Health Ministry had no reply.

Source: NST

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