The coronavirus pandemic has forced the government and local authorities to respond to the threat rapidly, redistributing budget funds. On April 1, the Government made changes to the Law of Ukraine “On Public Procurement” and simplified the procurement procedure for fighting against COVID-19. This will help oblasts to buy ventilators, tests, masks and the necessary medical supplies much faster.

Hromadske Radio has discussed with TI Ukraine’s Director of Innovation Projects Program Ivan Lakhtionov what goods are in the highest demand on Prozorro, how local authorities adapt to changes and what oblasts have purchased everything they need.

How does procurement of medical equipment happen via Prozorro? What companies supply it, Ukrainian or foreign ones?

It is important to point out that we analyze only public procurement via Prozorro, because it is also used by private companies. All procurement was made from Ukrainian suppliers. Many masks, respirators, disinfectants, medical gowns, tests for the coronavirus are being bought. As of March 25, 15,000 such tests for about UAH 7 million had been bought. The highest number of tests had been bought by Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa oblasts, while Chernivtsi, Mykolaiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Rivne oblasts were yet to buy a single one.

Between January 1 and March 28, 385 ventilators were procured for a total amount of over UAH 286 million. The biggest number of those was procured in Dnipropetrovsk, Kyiv, Kherson and Lviv oblasts, while Rivne, Ivano-Frankivsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts are lagging behind with just one ventilator procured by each.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of medical tenders in the Prozorro system is steadily growing: just on March 30-31, 40 tenders for ventilators were announced in the system. Our team will be regularly updating our analysis of the relevant procurement.

What was the reason for this situation? Can we assume that low medical procurement figures in certain oblasts are due to the lack of local public funds?

I think it was because we were not ready for the coronavirus crisis. The budget adopted last year had only minimum expenses projected for procurement of this type. Speaking about such things as tests for the coronavirus, they could not be included in the original budget in the first place. The government needs time to adapt. Every procuring entity needs to redistribute its budget and decide where it can save money. It depends primarily on the local government, which needs to ensure timely procurement.

Are there corruption risks in medical procurement?

There can be corruption risks in any procurement, theoretically, which is why we constantly analyze everything. Currently, we are in a situation where the demand is much higher than the supply. Unfortunately, you cannot buy PPE, including masks, in some pharmacies. It makes sense that the price grows when the demand is so high.

We started analyzing the number of tenders and total amounts, the next stage is studying prices and suppliers. This will help us to find out how much the prices have grown, exactly. For instance, we see that the price of medical masks has grown. What used to cost UAH 5 is now purchased for UAH 20-25. In this situation, we expect the Anti-Monopoly Committee to step in. We know that they have already opened cases against some manufacturers. 

 

During the interview, Ivan Lakhtionov defined three possible reasons why some oblasts are not very active with medical procurement:

  1. The local authorities weren’t able to redistribute local funds rapidly to enable all the necessary procurement.
  2. These oblasts have enough supplies and equipment.
  3. Hospitals are provided with all the necessary supplies by the business, such as oblast coronavirus centers.