The authorities decided to purchase vaccines against coronavirus not through the specialized Medical Procurement of Ukraine state enterprise, but through an international intermediary.
The choice fell on the British purchasing agency Crown Agents, which, based on information from the media, charges up to 5% of the contract amount for its services. Health Minister Maxym Stepanov noted at a briefing on January 15 that the decision on cooperation had already been taken by the Cabinet of Ministers at an extraordinary meeting.
So why we chose Crown Agents, what this company is known for and how a specialized Ukrainian enterprise was left behind in great purchases?
The history of this company lasts about 200 years old. Crown Agents originated as an organization that carried out financial transactions for the British colonies.
Its representatives were informally called “agents of the crown”. The latter were accountable to the colonial governments, although they were elected on the recommendation of the British government.
With the acceleration of the decolonization process, the organization began to deal with projects for independent states, thus expanding the scope of its activities.
In 1979, the British government took control of the Crown Agents, and in 1987 the corporation was privatized. Finally, exactly 10 years later, it became a private company.
Today Crown Agents is registered as an international limited liability company. It has only one shareholder, the non-profit Crown Agents Foundation.
The core business of the company is to help governments around the world to improve wealth, reduce poverty and improve health care.
Crown Agents have a track record of health systems strengthening, supply chain management and humanitarian relief.
The company operates in more than 100 countries around the world. It works with the World Bank, European Commission, United Nations, and the governments of Great Britain, Denmark, Japan, the United States and Ukraine.
Crown Agents in Ukraine
The company has been working here for over 10 years, cooperating with various ministries. Since 2015, it has provided support to the Ministry of Health in carrying out state purchases of drugs and medical supplies.
Confirming information about the plans of the Ministry of Health to cooperate with Crown Agents, Stepanov specified which powers company will have.
In particular, it will be able to conclude contracts with manufacturers in accordance with the preliminary negotiations held by the country's authorities, and will also carry out logistics support of goods.
Earlier, the Medical Procurement of Ukraine was authorized to purchase vaccines against coronavirus. But something went wrong.
How the profile Ukrainian state enterprise was left behind
It was expected that Medical Procurement would purchase the vaccine. In December 2020, a corresponding agreement was concluded with the state-owned enterprise.
However, at the beginning of this year, at one of his morning briefings, the head of the Ministry of Health, Maxym Stepanov, announced that Medical Procurement of Ukraine would be barred from purchasing the vaccine.
“I think that in the near future we will change the company that will perform the functions of purchasing vaccines. We cannot risk providing Ukraine with vaccines,” the minister said.
Stepanov thus reacted to the publication on Facebook of the director of Medical Procurement of Ukraine Arsen Zhumadilov, in which he accused the head of the Ministry of Health of illegally demanding that all purchases of anti-coronavirus vaccines be coordinated with the ministry.
These actions by Stepanov, according to the director of Medical Procurement of Ukraine, have led to the fact that today only one procurement agreement has been signed, and the price of the drug is higher than it could have been.
"The minister, in fact, determined the supplier himself. According to my information, Ukraine could get a price at least $ 1 lower than the final price, if the state enterprise negotiated independently, creating competitive pressure on the supplier," Zhumadilov writes.
The head of the Ministry of Health denied these accusations, calling the words of the director of the state enterprise "conjectures that discredit Ukraine before the international community."
At a briefing on January 15, Stepanov called the ineffective work of the state-owned enterprise the reason for the refusal of the Ministry of Health from the services of Medical Procurement of Ukraine.
"At the end of 2020, the work of the State Medical Procurement was extremely ineffective. I consider the organization of the process by the leadership of this company ineffective... Of the 453 items that they should have purchased last year, 108 were not purchased, that is, more than 20% purchases were ruined, "the minister said.
What is Medical Procurement of Ukraine?
It is a state-owned enterprise that was established in October 2018 as part of the healthcare reform.
Its main goal is to ensure high-quality and efficient procurement of drugs and medical devices.
The Medical Procurement was supposed to become the main purchasing organization, but even after its creation, most of the transactions were concluded through international organizations.
At the end of last year, Medical Procurement announced a "dubious" check by the Ministry of Health, and at the beginning of 2021, they accused the department of blocking their activities.
According to the press service of the state enterprise, due to the disagreement with financial support from the Ministry of Health, the company cannot accept and deliver medicines and medical devices purchased under state programs.
This, in particular, applies to personal protective equipment and goods purchased to counter the Covid-19 coronavirus infection (protective suits and gowns, medical masks, express tests, etc.).
In turn, the Ministry of Health denies blocking the work of the enterprise and says that it is operating normally.