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By KELIN DILLON

Despite more than a year and a half of reports surrounding the United Nations Office for Project Services’ (UNOPS) failure to deliver life-saving drugs to Mexico in a timely manner, drug shortages and cost overruns, the UNOPS in Mexico was awarded the the United Nations Global Procurement Award – the highest award available in the sector – by the High-Level Committee on Management Procurement Network (HLCM-PN).

The UNOPS was originally contracted to supply medications on behalf of the federal government to Mexico in July 2020, when the two parties signed a four-year agreement set to span from 2021 to 2024.

“This public procurement initiative has been recognized with the first place for its excellence in acquisitions due to its impact, sustainability, timely implementation, benefits demonstrated through indicators, best practices, added value in favor of the environment, relevance in people’s lives, and contributions to achieving the Goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda,” said the United Nations (UN) at the time of the award.

“International standards of transparency, allowed UNOPS to make purchases at fair and efficient prices, managing to generate savings of 10 billion pesos, which is significantly higher than UNOPS operating costs,” added the UN statement.

However, reports coming out of the Mexican health care system revealed that the UNOPS failed to deliver on 91 percent of its promised drug supply to Mexico for 2022, putting the validity of the program’s Global Procurement Award award in question.

Just on Oct. 5, Juan Ferrer – head of the Mexican Institute of Health for Welfare (Insabi) – revealed that the Insabi would no longer require the services of the UNOPS to acquire medications for Mexico ahead of its contract expiration in 2024 due to continued issues like delivery delays, budget surpasses and medication shortages.

Mexico’s failed collaboration with the UNOPS reportedly cost the nation 4.59 billion pesos – 2.7 billion of which went directly to the payment of the UNOPS, and an additional 1.85 billion pesos spent by Mexico to make up for the failures of the UNOPS system.

“For each contract that UNOPS achieved in each medication key, public health institutions made up to 40 contracts abroad due to the need to care for patients and give them their medication,” said Enrique Martínez, director of the Pharmaceutical Institute (Inefam). “The backlog that UNOPS created was enormous.” 

“As a result, many drug purchases were made at the retail price and not at the wholesale price,” continued Martínez.

As of Wednesday, Oct. 19, It remains to be seen how the contract between the UNOPS and Mexico will be dissolved ahead of the agreement’s predetermined expiration.

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