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Article

Ventilator Purchase Skips Tender Process, Raises Eyebrows

By Miriam Bello | Thu, 05/07/2020 - 13:02

Accusations against an overpriced purchase of medical devices from entities of the Mexican government raised concerns in Mexico this week. In the Mexican media, this has been a trendy subject as the seriousness of the action escalates in the midst of a global pandemic.

All purchases that public healthcare entities in Mexico want to do need to go through a previous tender process. This scheme has been a banner of the current administration and its impact on the availability of Mexican medical supplies has caused shortages of medicine for months.

The government had been called out by Mexican leaders of the healthcare industry saying that they had all the disposition to work with the public sector and avoid the shortages. While they all seem to agree with these measures as a way to target corruption, business leaders have been vocal about the challenges this entail and their willingness to contribute to the issue.

Now, complaints have risen regarding a millionaire purchase of ventilators done by the federal government with no tender process, adjudicated to a company owned by the son of a long-time Mexican Politician and current head of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), León Bartlett.

The civil association, Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity, was the first to reveal that IMSS in Hidalgo allocated MX$31 million (US$1.29 million) for the acquisition of 20 ventilators, meaning that each of them costed MX$550,000 (US$22,000). According to their findings, these ventilators were sold at the highest price during this contingency.

In Mexico, cases like this are quite common. But, during a global pandemic, that the Mexican government would waste such an amount of money to the son of a high-level public commissioner has caused discontent among society. The Washington Post shared an in-depth study of the case where it shows that Mexican businessman Leon Bartlett received a contract from ISSSTE of MX$94.9 million (US$3.96 million) in the purchase of thoracic ultrasound equipment for chest and lung. The lack of a tender was justified due to the sanitary crisis brought by COVID-19. The report goes on showing millionaire contracts from public healthcare entities to the company Cyber Robotics Solutions, owned by León Bartlett. In total, there are six other contracts.

León Bartlett appeared in Milenio and said that there is no interest conflict in the contracts his company has with the Mexican government and declared that there is a bias in the data. “There are different types of ventilators with different characteristics. The prices mentioned are made to appear the highest but there are higher offers.

During the president’s morning press conference, López Obrador was quick to support Bartlett but said that the Chamber of Deputies had requested an investigation on the case and that the Ministry of Public Affairs will start the administrative process. Head of IMSS Zoé Robledo confirmed the purchases but the investigation considers him too, as it charges him with undue privileged information, conflict of interest and influence peddling.

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Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst