Ministry of Health Spokesperson Dr Maxmilian Bweupe has admitted that the Ministry procured 50 purpose build ambulances at a total cost of US$11.5 million.

Speaking at a press briefing in Lusaka yesterday, Dr Bweupe however said the process which was embarked on in March 2015 was done in a transparent manner through an open international competitive bidding that attracted 13 bidders.

He said it was not true that each ambulance was valued at US$288,000 because the package also included training of officers and spare parts for the next five years among other costs.

“The press briefing centres on the highly topical subject which has been going round in the circles of social media alleging that the Ministry of Health has procured ambulances at a cost of $11 million dollars and the allegations have gone further to say that the ambulances were procured at a price of US$288 000 each. What I would like to inform you as our media partners and the nation at large through your media outlet is that yes in March 2015, the Ministry of Health embarked on a procurement of a total package consisting of 50 purpose build ambulances,” Dr Bweupe explained.

“This was done in a transparent manner starting with an open international competitive bidding which attracted 13 bidders. The due process was followed after this including the Ministry of Health Institutional Ministerial procurement approvals, due diligence, technical evaluations and after the lengthy process, the submission was made to ZPPA and the due process as prescribed by the law followed through out this procurement. And emerging from this Savender limited was awarded this procurement at a cost of US$11.5 million.”

Dr Bweupe explained that the Ministry paid 10 percent of the amount in 2015, another 15 percent in 2016 while the remaining 75 percent is yet to be paid.

“Now, the $11.5 million dollars is not to be calculated in a simplicity manner that you divide 50 ambulances at the cost of $11.5 million dollars and you state that each one is costing $288,000. The package which was awarded for provision by savender includes a lot more than this. There is the cost of the base vehicle itself which is a Mercedes Benz vehicle base and not a Toyota as being described. It includes training of 200 people to support the operation of these ambulances and this includes a 100 paramedics, 50 doctors, and 50 technical people to look after the equipment itself. Apart from the training of the people manning this highly advanced equipment, the package includes provision of spare parts for these advanced medical equipments for the next five years regardless of mileage,” he said.

And Dr Bweupe said the decision to procure the said ambulances was never made at political level.

“With the procurement of this equipment, from the 13 people who bid, there were among the bidders whose bid were way beyond what savender bid and there were those who had clustered around that cost. So this kind of procurement is something which should not be seen as something that is unreasonable,” said Dr Bweupe.

“When the process was started in 2015, due to fiscal constraints, we were only able to pay a 10 percent of the US$11.5 million, in 2016 we were able to pay an additional 15 percent of the cost. As we are talking, the units are still overseas and we are yet to pay the remaining 75 percent. Before the units are shipped off, we shall constitute again a highly qualified team which is competent to do pre-shipment inspection and ensure that we are getting value for money. And at no one time was there a decision being made at political level.”

And Dr Bweupe disclosed that the highest bidder quoted at $11.5 million dollars while the lowest quoted at $4.2 million dollars which were deemed as non-responsive.