Dar es Salaam — In November 2017, the Medical Stores Department (MSD) was appointed to procure drugs including medical supplies and lab equipment to Southern African Development Community (Sadc) member countries.
The move was the outcome of a meeting of health ministers from the 16-member countries of the bloc who were satisfied with MSD's capacity in procurement, storage and distribution of drugs, medical supplies and lab equipment.
MSD then signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Sadc secretariat on October 19, 2018 to that effect.
Primary preparations commenced and a meeting between Sadc member states took place in Tanzania to agree on the distribution system.
The procedures included advertising tenders to Sadc and start picking suppliers to the Sadc member countries, a process that is still ongoing.
MSD director general Laurean Bwanakunu told The Citizen that other procedures that were undertaken included preparing an electronic system that would enable easier access to the procurement process in Sadc, which also would enable MSD to switch to a digital system that has remained since then.
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He said MSD will use a participatory procurement system (Pooled Procurement Services - SPPS).
"In order to avoid an expensive system, our internal experts prepared a system that meets the set standards by empowering producers to distribute the drugs directly to member countries without the products having to pass through Tanzania for storage and distribution," he said.
He noted that the system is expected to reduce the cost of managing and supervising the procurement process.
Bwanakunu explained how they would be providing the products to the member countries through the digital procurement system.
"We will be using the digital system in all the countries and our major responsibility is to receive the orders and procure through our producers who will directly distribute the drugs to countries according to their requirement," he said.
He said MSD will manage all the statistics and information required for official data procurement of the drugs and other medical supplies for the countries through the value chain distribution.
"Our responsibility will be to issue expert services and to set indicative prices, issue expert advice as well as starting planning segment inside the procurement directorate for Sadc" he said.
According to him, MSD has for the past 11 months been collaborating with Sadc to prepare a draft implementation plan for SPPS.
Bwanakunu said they had already advertised the tenders on May 20, and currently were doing a study which has identified 80 industries both in and outside the country, and therefore they were awaiting the finalisation of the study.
"Tenders go through a long process, some would want to take the drugs to the country headquarters while another will say they will take the drugs to the port and therefore it was imperative they reach a consensus," he said.
He noted that there are at least four steps to follow including understanding the requirements, identifying and announcing the winners and hear and determine complaints from losers, if any.
He further noted that once the tender process is finalized a producer who feels he was unfairly disqualified is allowed to take the matter to court.
He further noted that the Attorney General from Tanzania alone must go through the entire process using the Tanzania laws for at least another month after the tender process is completed.
Asked about local industries, he said MSD, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, has involved and sensitized them to increase capacity as well as to participate in the tender.
About the quality of drugs produced locally for exports, he said while dialogue continues in the Sadc, the responsibility remains between member countries to control the quality of own drugs before starting to use them.
He noted that for Tanzania investors have shown interest in building large factories which will ensure enough drugs and medical supplies in the Sadc market.
Last year when signing the agreement, Sadc secretary general Dr Stergomena Tax said that Tanzania will be the main supplier of drugs to Sadc member countries and said it was a good thing for the country to be trusted due to quality services through the entire drug process
"Tanzania meets all the requirements and won the tender which is an opportunity for the country. I, therefore, urge MSD to ensure it completes all the procedures as quickly as possible so that the work can start," she said.Dr Elias Kwesi, from the Ministry of Health, Social Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, said they have already held a meeting with 34 different countries including those of Sadc member states According to him, the annual meeting saw at least 150 producers from 34 countries in the world.