It was widely reported last month that large number defective kits from China to test COVID-19 were supplied to many laboratories in West Bengal and other states by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) producing many “false negative” results to detect the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. False negative test results not only give false low number of infected patients, it will obviously also cause more spread of COVID-19. In fact, ICMR withdrew these spurious test kits after many state governments raised objections, virtually admitting that the Chinese kits they procured to test COVID-19 were substandard. But the crucial question that ICMR must answer is why they procured defective kits from China and how this problem was not detected until the substandard kits were supplied to laboratories across India and produced large number of “false negative” results?
PBT wrote to World Bank president last month about this potentially enormous corruption with spurious COVID-19 test kits and asked World Bank for a full investigation of this sordid incidence and exemplary punishment for the individuals involved with this alleged corruption because World Bank provides substantial funding to combat COVID-19 in India. In a letter dated May 6, 2020, World Bank Country Director in India, Mr. Junaid Kamal Ahmad, has stated that they have transferred PBT’s complaint against the allegedly defective test kits for COVID-19 to ICMR because the procurement of these kits did not involve any World Bank financing (see PBT’s complaint and World Bank response letter below). We will keep a close watch on this fiasco with COVID-19 test kits and hope that ICMR and other Indian authorities will take immediate measures to investigate and bring justice to all the people responsible for this massive failure to test COVID-19. Ironically, PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha, was hired by the World Bank as an HIV/AIDS specialist, to investigate similar allegations of bogus HIV test kits across India in 2007-2008. The final report of this investigation by World Bank published in 2009 found widespread corruption with HIV test kits. A criminal case was started in 2006-2007 by Indian authorities against several individuals from Monozyme India for supplying thousands of spurious HIV test kits that perhaps resulted in transmission of the deadly HIV to countless innocent patients through tainted blood. Unfortunately, these criminal cases have remained in a deep slumber till now showing unthinkable travesty of justice. PBT also moved several PILs against National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) in High Court and Supreme Court of India.