Innovata goes to court to block antiretrovirals deal

Innovata Pharmaceuticals, one of the three companies awarded a contract to supply antiretrovirals by the Department of Health, has applied for an urgent interdict in the Pretoria High Court to stop the government from awarding a supplementary contract to another company.

Innovata was awarded a R1.5-billion contract in 2022 to supply about 16 million ARVs. But the department later cut the entity’s supply to nine million.

It then advertised a tender to supply the seven million ARVs as a new supplementary tender to the company’s original contract.

The department plans to award the supplementary tender to a different company. In its papers, Innovata stated that reducing the contract would harm the firm financially.

It also stated that awarding the supplementary contract to another company would be unlawful and/or irregular.

Innovata also blames the health department’s head of affordable medicines, Khadija Jamaloodien, for the proposal for a supplementary deal, stating that she acts as a player, referee and coach.

Innovata says Jamaloodien, who heads the Affordable Medicines Directorate, also chairs the bid adjudication committee and the bid evaluation committee which decides who gets a slice of the department’s R16-billion in antiretroviral contracts.

Aggrieved Innovata director, Grace Job, also wrote a letter to National Treasury, indicating that the company believes “that the correct procedures were not followed when publishing the supplementary tender”.

“It is our understanding that supplementary tenders are for non-awarded products and do not apply in instances of change in quantities unless the awarded suppliers are unable to meet the demand,” Job wrote.

Job also said it was alarming that the department “failed to first approach our company or all three contracted suppliers to confirm the existing capacity to supply these additional quantities prior to purchasing a supplementary tender”.

It is also believed that the supplementary tender was tailored for a particular company, as it would not have been awarded “to bidders who manufactured products locally” while the conditions of the main tender preferred “local manufacture bidders who packed locally”.

It is strongly believed that Jamaloodien is behind the supplementary tender.

“Khadija is a player, a referee and a coach in the tender; this is a direct conflict of interests,” one pharmaceutical executive, who asked not to be named, told Sunday World.

When contacted, Department of Health spokesperson Foster Mohale didn’t answer specific questions about the matter, including Jamaloodien’s alleged conflict of interest.

“The Department of Health acknowledges the receipt of your media query; unfortunately, the matter in question is currently before the court of law, which means it is sub judice.

“The legal team of the department is preparing responses to all allegations raised by the complainant on this matter in order to respond through legal channels,” Mohale said.

“Thus, as much as we promote the principles of access to information, accountability, and transparency, we equally need to respect the court processes to avoid jeopardising the case.

“It is against this background that the department is unable to respond to these media questions for now until the matter is heard in court.”

The court heard the case last week and postponed it to a later date.

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