The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday approved in principle the health ministry proposal for buying Covid-19 vaccine from Chinese state-owned enterprise Sinopharm.
The committee chairman and Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said they had to approve the purchase of the vaccine through the direct procurement method as the health ministry had failed to take necessary and timely measures to tackle the Covid-19 situation.
The direct procurement method is more prone to irregularities in purchases and the buyer often pays higher prices for products than their actual prices.
Asked about the matter, the finance minister said, "It was the health ministry's responsibility to take appropriate action in a timely manner, but they could not. So, we have approved the proposal to buy the vaccine under the direct procurement method, considering the issue of saving people's lives without thinking about the possibility of irregularities in the purchase or buying it at an excessive price."
"If the health ministry had taken timely steps, it might have saved some money to buy the vaccine," he added.
He said, "When a proposal to buy something in the direct procurement method comes up for approval by the Cabinet Committee on Public Procurement, we try that the product is not bought at an excess price."
Regarding the health ministry, AHM Mustafa Kamal said, "If they had made the same mistakes again and again, we would have rejected the proposal without approving it."
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Public Procurement has approved the purchase of capital and maintenance dredging work of the Rabnabad Channel at the Payra Port from the Belgium-based dredging company Jan De Nul (JDN). The project will cost around Tk5,629 crore.
The finance minister said the expenditure would be met from funds raised from the foreign exchange reserves. He will announce next week how long the dredging work will last and what method will be followed to pay the money.
The committee also approved a proposal to import 33.6 lakh MMBTU LNG from AOT Trading AG, Switzerland. It will cost about Tk341 crore.
The cabinet committee has also given nod to a procurement proposal involving Tk1,797 crore for setting up Bangladesh Power Development Board's 400 MW power plant in Chattogram's Raozan area. China's SEPCO-III Electric Power Construction Co Ltd will be awarded the contract to build the power station.