Ministry Awards Controversial Drug Contract

After a bidding process marred by allegations of mishandling and lack of transparency, the Ministry of Health has awarded its first medical supply contract of the year to the Vanvymex company, an import-export company that shares an office address with land and timber giant Pheapimex.

The ministry awarded a contract to Vanvymex for the supply of 162 medicines and medical supply items over three other bidding companies in late October, ministry Undersecretary of State Hen Chhin said Monday.

“The bidding went through proper procedure. There was nothing secret. Everything was properly inspected,” said Hen Chhin, chairman of the eight-member procurement committee that awarded the contract.

Pharmaceutical companies charged in August that the health ministry had failed to disclose documents and information needed for companies to make competitive bids. The ministry barred reporters from the Sept 3 public opening of the bids.

Though Hen Chhin and Health Minister Nuth Sokhon said the contract was submitted to the Finance Ministry for approval, the head of the Finance Ministry department that oversees procurements said Tuesday the decision was “not yet final” on the Vanvymex award.

The Vanvymex procurement contract is the first the Health Ministry has awarded this year. Budget delays caused by the past political deadlock have stymied the 2004 procurement process, said Nuth Sokhon.

Last month, police in Kompong Thom province arrested 12 Chin­ese prospect­ing for gold. They were released into the custody of a Vanvymex representative, who said they worked for the company.

No telephone numbers are listed for Vanvymex. A man at the Pheapimex compound Tuesday who identified himself as a personal assistant to Vanvymex head Lav Meng Khin said his boss had left  the country that morning to ac­company Prime Minister Hun Sen to China.

Though Hen Chhin said that Vanvymex “has proper qualifications” and “experience” related to the contract, it was not immediately clear Tues­day what previous credentials Vanvymex holds in the pharmaceutical industry.

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