(Business in Cameroon) - Mediline Medical Cameroon recently spoke out about its involvement in the case the media baptized "Covidgate", in reference to the financial malpractices supposedly organized around the management of the XAF180 billion fund dedicated to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallouts in 2020.
In a press release issued on June 2, 2021, in Seoul, South Korea, Sangkiyi, Chairman of Mediline Medical’s executive board, explained that in 2020, his company supplied 1.4 million Covid-19 test kits to the State of Cameroon for XAF24.5 billion. This means that the group admits it sold each of the kits at XAF17,500.
According to the Supreme State Audit Office, the kits were overbilled since the manufacturer, SD-Biosensor, was charging XAF7,084 per kit. The audit office believes that Cameroon lost at least XAF14.582 billion in that order.
However, to defend iitself, Mediline reminds of the conditions in which it signed the agreement with Cameroon. According to the release, there was a shortage of kits around the world, a slowdown or even suspension of banking and insurance activities, as well as the confinement, border closures, and logistics problems.
Even though those problems justify the high initial prices, it is worth mentioning that till 2021, Mediline Medical Cameroon has maintained the same prices as it states in its release. Moreover, two other contractors (local companies Medical Plus and Sat Pharma) are supplying the test kits at XAF8,371.9 each. Despite their considerably lower prices, they won just a little portion of the Covid-19 test kits’ supplying contract (less than 10% of the kits supplied to Cameroon in 2020).
“Let’s also remind that our firm always complies with the prevailing market prices, per the rules in force,” Sangkiyi adds. This explanation seems to be pointing a finger at the Ministry of Commerce, which elaborates the price listings. On May 21, 2021, the said Ministry published a note on its official Facebook page accusing Mediline Medical Cameroon of fraud.
“Contrary to the speculative allegations circulating on social media, the special committee that validates the price index elaborated by Minister of Commerce Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, who by the way worked with utmost transparency, approved a price of XAF17,500 for 25 kits, and XAF700 per kit. (…) Mediline Médical Cameroon SA simply decided not to comply with the official pricing of the Ministry of Commerce when it was delivering the kits. It invoiced each of them at XAF17,500 instead of XAF17,500 for 25 kits per the decision of the special price validation commission,” the Ministry wrote.