UNOPS in Mexico fell short

The world scandal around the UNOPS organization for irregular financing that will apparently be uncollectible and that led to the resignation of its head Grete Faremo, leaves in Mexico a feeling of unease due to the unclear role it has played in the purchase of medicines here.

Its purchasing exercises have been messy, too slow, with unclear results in accordance with what the market is used to in Mexico and leaving its suppliers in a long wait for payments that -unlike what was promised- the vast majority are companies Mexican.

Originally, the role that this international organization was going to have in the purchase of medicines and other health supplies in Mexico was very relevant. That, as announced by President López Obrador in a morning conference at the end of July 2020. The current administration opened the doors without hindrance and in such a way that the Government agreed to change the Procurement Law so that a body such as UNOPS could buy health supplies.

But in the end his role ended up being secondary. The Secretary of Health Jorge Alcocer himself announced in 2021 together with AMLO that, given the unsuccessful success, they then decided to resort to a Plan B without including UNOPS. The IMSS itself then raised its hand to take charge of the consolidated purchase, and with all authority, since it has proven experience in it, but they ignored it.

Halfway into 2021 Q4 was pushing UNOPS aside. But the directors of the agency mobilized, sought some arrangement and the Government ended up accepting that they continue in the game, but only with a small fraction of the purchases. In its last exercise, called last January, UNOPS called to purchase medicines and supplies for some 5,000 million pesos, an amount that represents less than 10% of the total purchases of medicines annually made by the country’s public sector.

The question since then is whether the payment agreed to UNOPS was also reduced, which was initially said to be close to 100 million dollars for performance over four years. It is known that this year there was a modification to the agreement signed between UNOPS and Insabi, but rather focused on improving logistics for the distribution of medicines and payments to suppliers. And it is that due to the disorder generated between UNOPS and INSABI for the distribution, the payment delays extended for many months to the extent that not a few of their suppliers have been on the verge of bankruptcy; there is the case of the Mexican pharmaceutical company Landsteiner Scientific, led by Arturo Morales, which got stuck and ended up in bankruptcy, from which it is apparently already coming out.

UNOPS promotes in its favor that in Mexico it has achieved, together with Insabi, a deconcentration of the market, going from 18 to 97 suppliers who share 80% of purchases.

It must be said that the Government’s Plan B has also had its setbacks and, as we explained in our previous issue, the blind sticks in health purchases continue with the consequent shortage of many therapies for patients.

According to the bidders, one of the biggest problems with UNOPS is that it takes too long in its processes. In this last purchase he began to receive offers since January and almost four months later he is barely notifying the winners one by one, but without giving them certainty about the signing of the contract. A pharmaceutical company usually starts manufacturing as soon as it has the purchase contract tied up.

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Maribel Ramirez Coronel

Journalist on economics and health issues

Health and Business

Communicator specialized in public health and the health industry. She is studying a master’s degree in Health Systems Administration at FCA of UNAM.

Founder in 2004 of, a concept on women’s health. I am passionate about researching and reporting on health, innovation, the industry related to science, and finding the objective business approach to each topic.

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