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ISLAMABAD: The Federal government has exempted procurement of Covid-19 vaccine or vaccines by the Ministry of NHSR&C from the operation of Public Procurement Rules, 2004 and Regulations issued from time to time in the larger national interest, official sources told Business Recorder.

Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) had recommended exemption to Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination (NHSR&C), under Section 21 of PPRA Ordinance 2002, in light of the decision of PPRA Board whose 43rd and 44th meetings were held on December 14, 2020 and December 22, 2020.

The Board had decided: "though the case falls under the ambit of emergency, however also merits consideration for exemption due to some other constraints of Public Procurement Rules 43, 45 and 47. The Board directed the PPRA management to further examine the case in the light of all available documents and discussion with the representative(s) of Ministry of NHSR&C, and forward the recommendation to the Federal Government for granting exemption from Public Procurement Rules to Ministry of NHSR&C for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine in the larger national interest." After comprehensive evaluation of the case, the Authority (PPRA) decided that the case is of national interest in accordance with the provision of section 21 of the PPRA Ordinance, due to the following reasons: (i) the urgency of the matter to limit the spread of pandemic disease for which International Public Health emergency has also been declared by the WHO; (ii) the risk of the loss of the advance payment is of less significance as compared to the risk of the loss of precious lives; (iii) second wave of the Covid-19 has variant versions of intense nature having more likelihood of casualties, for which the Ministry needs to take immediate initiatives to control the spread of the disease, and delay in procurement of vaccine may lead to severe implications including the choking of the existing limited health infrastructure facilities.

In line with the decision of the PPRA Board and deliberations made with the representative of the Ministry of NHSR&C, the PPRA had further advised that the Ministry/procuring agency, even if in the context of national importance, the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine was being recommended for exemption, under Section-21 of the PPRA Ordinance, from the operation of Public Procurement Rules and Regulations, may: (i) exercise due diligence in vigilant manner for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine; (ii) evolve a well-defined mechanism for price negotiation and negotiations on the other terms and conditions of the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine or vaccines in order to obtain the best possible deal in the interest of the people of Pakistan; and (iii) determine the time frame for conclusion of the exemption from the operation of Public Procurement Rules and Regulations for the proposed procurement of Covid-19 vaccine.

Section 21 of the PPRA Ordinance, 2002 stipulates that "The Authority may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, recommend to the Federal Government that the procurement of an object or class of objects in the national interest be exempted from the operation of this Ordinance or any rule or regulation made thereunder or any other law regulating public procurement and the Federal Government on such recommendations shall exempt the aforesaid objects or class of objects from the operation of the laws and rules and regulations made thereunder". Foregoing in view, under Section 21 of the PPRA Ordinance, the Federal Government (Cabinet) may on the above recommendations of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority and its Board, exempt the proposed procurement of Covid-19 vaccine or vaccines by the Ministry of NHSR&C from the operation of Public Procurement Rules, 2004 and Regulations issued from time to time in the larger national interest.

During discussions in the Cabinet on January 13, 2021, National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination Division said that the conditions mentioned by PPRA were very subjective in nature and difficult to implement in single source procurement. Chairman PPRA clarified that these were not conditions but mere guidelines and advisory in nature, which will help the sponsoring Ministry in maintaining effective controls during procurement process. The members noted that in case of such extreme emergency the subjective guidelines could cause unnecessary delays and prove to be counter-productive, hence were unnecessary.

After detailed discussion, the Cabinet exempted procurement of Covid-19 vaccine from PPRA Rules 2004.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021