ADB ensures quality assurance and controls to emergency PPE supplies against COVID-19

Article | 27 July 2020

In order to provide a steady supply of personal protective equipment (PPEs) to 13 developing countries in East Asia, Central and West Asia, and Southeast Asia, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), after a competitive bidding process, placed an order of quality PPEs with IDA Foundation (IDA) worth around $5.6 million. 

The medical goods supplied by IDA, consisting of surgical masks, medical respirators, goggles, gloves, face shields, aprons, and biohazard bags, came from three different manufacturing partners in the People’s Republic of China.

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in early 2020 when the supply of critical PPEs became acute, IDA has been actively working on the sourcing of these important items to address global healthcare challenges and shortages, especially in low- and middle-income countries. This independent social enterprise headquartered in the Netherlands provides medicines and medical goods to healthcare organizations worldwide and acts as a procurement agent to various global health supply chain management programs, often under challenging circumstances in remote and hard-to-reach areas. 

To rapidly scale up the supply of PPEs, IDA set up an emergency quality assurance (QA) approval process which incorporates stringent quality guidelines and standards that comply with the World Health Organization Model Quality Assurance System for Procurement Agencies. New PPE items are approved based on documentation verification to ensure compliance with regulations, and the artwork is photographed and assessed. Local norms for the product are taken into account in the approval process, for example ensuring acceptance by appropriate government authorities (such as United States Food and Drug Administration). In the case of new suppliers, IDA also performs due diligence as in non-emergency situations. This emergency approval is valid for 6 months, then the approval is reassessed. This has allowed for the efficient and effective approval of PPE products, guaranteeing constant availability of the requested COVID-19-related supplies from a broad range of quality-assured manufacturers. 

ADB’s Procurement, Portfolio and Financial Management Department (PPFD) is working closely with IDA Foundation to collectively assess and address these issues, while relying extensively on its quality assurance and control procedures to ensure the right products are delivered to frontline health workers.  

PPFD Principal Procurement Specialist Jesper Pedersen commented: “The best practice for supply chain responsiveness and resiliency is to perform key aspects of quality assurance upfront to ensure parties involved in the manufacture of goods adhere to the applicable national or international standards of the items being produced. Quality control is then handled upon physical inspection of the goods to ensure the delivered items meet the agreed standards.  This is exactly what we have seen so far in our relationship with IDA – the right goods, delivered at the right time, and to the agreed standard.”  

This procurement effort is part of the $48.3 million Technical Assistance (TA) on Regional Support to Address the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019, mobilized by the Health Sector Group of ADB’s Sustainable Development and Climate Change  Department. 

As of mid-July 2020, ADB, under the TA, has procured and awarded contracts worth $15 million with various suppliers of PPEs, testing kits, diagnostics equipment, lab reagents, and other critical items to fight the disease. This is in addition to the $18 million of procurement services being undertaken by UNICEF through the same TA.