Quebec importers of medical equipment are outraged by the prices they consider excessive that the Trudeau government had to pay last spring to replenish the reserves of the Canadian health system.
In the case of medical gowns purchased in astronomical quantities, contractors contacted by our Bureau of Investigation believe that they could have offered them at three times lower costs for equivalent quantities.
According to figures obtained last week, the federal government paid about $ 18.55 per unit for 20 million level 3 medical gowns imported from China. They were acquired under a $ 371.3 million contract won by Proline Advantage, a small firm virtually unknown in Ottawa.
Two Quebec importers interviewed estimate that they would have been able to offer these same gowns at around $ 5 per unit, despite the shortage that reigned in the spring, if they had been able to participate in the purchasing process.
The first comer
In the case of this contract alone, it would therefore be hundreds of millions overpaid by Ottawa.
“For incomprehensible reasons, they [les fonctionnaires] seem to have taken the first comer [comme fournisseur]. In fact, I think it was a matter of contacts, ”said one of the importers, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being banned from federal purchases.
This Montreal businessman, whose company is active in medical importation, is stunned by the size of the sums involved.
“With 371 million, we could have set up a whole mask factory in China in a few weeks. It doesn’t make any sense, ”he emphasizes.
He registered last March to participate in the medical purchasing process launched by Ottawa. He was contacted in mid-April to find out if he was able to offer N95 masks, a request that went unanswered.
Last spring, Ottawa ordered a colossal amount of medical supplies. No less than $ 6.1 billion was spent without tendering, including $ 1.8 billion for gowns.
Another importer interviewed felt that the idea of using a non-competitive process was a mistake.
In his opinion, it should have been done.
“Everyone would have been on an equal footing to have the contracts,” he explains.
This businessman, who also wanted to hide his identity, believes that the federal government could have obtained much better prices in this way.
Last spring, this importer had direct access to the production of certain factories in Vietnam and could have offered gowns at just over $ 5 per unit.
“The way,” he says, “the contracts were awarded raises a lot of questions. He wonders if some of the suppliers selected by Ottawa did not have “connections”.
Earlier this week, the Department of Utilities and Procurement defended the choice of Proline Advantage, saying the company met all the necessary criteria to fulfill the contract.
The example of blouses
Price paid by the government for a particular contract in the spring:
- $ 371.3 million for 20 million level 3 gowns
- $ 18.55 per blouse, according to our estimates
Price that two Quebec importers could have offered:
- About $ 5 by blouse
Very discreet companies
Some of the companies that have obtained major medical contracts from Ottawa are very discreet.
This is the case for at least two of them, according to research conducted by our Bureau of Investigation.
MuFactor, based in Calgary, landed a contract for $ 257.2 million for an unknown quantity of gowns, and a second contract for $ 43.5 million for face shields.
Despite the appreciable size of these orders, the company does not even have a website to offer its products. It does not appear in any business directory.
The name of only one director for the company appears in the Alberta Business Register, and that is Ruiyang Ma, a real ghost on the web. Impossible to find him a LinkedIn account, yet a very popular business directory, nor a Facebook account.
The company’s address on the business register is that of a small single-family home located in an older neighborhood of Calgary.
Campbell Drug Stores is not a chain of pharmacies, despite its name. Based in Mississauga, Ontario, the company has no internet presence. It is therefore impossible to know its raison d’être.
She was awarded a $ 176.1 million contract from Ottawa for medical gowns. According to the Ontario Business Register, it has two directors, Jatinder Dhillon and Amanjot Grewal, whose names are impossible to associate with Campbell Drug Stores on social media.
The address of the company corresponds to that of a physiotherapy and chiropractic services clinic.
♦ Do you have information about federal contracts related to the pandemic? Communicate with me confidentially by secure address: email@example.com or by Signal encrypted messaging with my name as an identifier. If you wish, you can also use our Secret files tool, the operation of which is available here: www.journaldemontreal.com/dossiers-secrets