PMA wants exam depts, academicians part of MDCAT firm’s hiring process

Published December 6, 2021
Students give entry test in Rawalpindi for admission to National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS). — APP/File
Students give entry test in Rawalpindi for admission to National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS). — APP/File

• PMC’s tailor-made tender criticised
• Exam fee between Rs500 and Rs1,000 proposed

ISLAMABAD: Criticising the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) for floating a “tailor-made” tender to hire a company for conducting the Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT), the Pakistan Medical Associa­tion (PMA), a representative body of the medical fraternity, has suggested that examination departments and academicians of renowned universities should be involved in the hiring of a testing company.

Moreover, the association has suggested that the exam fee should be between Rs500 and Rs1,000 as around 200,000 students take the test, which is mandatory for getting admission to medical and dental colleges at the same time.

It is worth mentioning here that a number of cases are being heard in courts that the SOAR Testing and Evaluation Platform (SMC-PVT) Limited (TEPS), which had a joint venture (JV) with the PMC and conducted MDCAT across the country as well as out of Pakistan in six cities in September this year, was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) after the date of filing of bids for MDCAT tender and also lacked NTN number.

Last month the PMC had cancelled the 10-year joint venture agreement with TEPS and floated a tender, calling on companies to file technical and financial proposal bids by Dec 9.

According to the tender document, available with Dawn, the duration of the contract would initially be for five years and extendable for another five years.

The MDCAT exam must be conducted in an offline mode with no dependency on internet to avoid any connectivity issue.

The question bank will be provided by the PMC but it will be the responsibility of the bidder to provide paper setting software to generate examination papers based on the rules and indexing determined by the PMC.

The lead bidder should be a company/firm incorporated with the SECP and have NTN, Sales Tax Number and be on active taxpayer list of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

However, the new PMC tender document contains some conditions which cannot be achieved or met by any other testing company in Pakistan except the TEPS which has got experience after a joint venture with the PMC.

In order to qualify, the bidders must achieve a minimum of 70 per cent score in technical evaluation, and marks below 50pc in any of the six categories will disqualify the bidder. It states that the company should have conducted the computer-based exam locally at more than 20 locations and internationally at over five locations simultaneously within a period of 30 days.

Only two marks will be awarded to bidders who held exams of 10,000 students and 15 marks to those firms that conducted the test of 150,000 students.

Pakistan Medical Association Punjab President retired Col Dr Ghulam Shabir, while talking to Dawn, said the TEPS was going to be the only eligible company which had completed at least one similar mandatory big project, and would fulfil all other tailor-made specific criteria of the new tender.

“The fact is that the Lahore High Court has been hearing a case in this regard due to which the PMC cancelled the 10-year contract with the company. Moreover, the firm’s representative has never appeared in the hearings due to which it strengthens our doubt that it is a shadow company and PMC has been making efforts to award the contract to it again,” he claimed.

Last year, Mr Shabir said, the PMC uploaded on its website that in Pakistan there was no company which had the experience of holding such a test and that was why an agreement was made with a company. “Now a tailor-made tender has been prepared to award the contract to the same company,” he alleged.

It is worth mentioning here that last week, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Health, chaired by MNA Khalid Hussain Magsi, also discussed the issue and expressed annoyance over the absence of both the PMC president and vice president. Members refused to get a briefing from Member Examination PMC retired Brig Nasir Rafique and warned that they may move a privilege motion against the PMC president and vice president.

Talking to Dawn, PMA general secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad said the examination departments of well-reputed universities should be involved in hiring of companies for the test.

“Moreover, the fee of the test, which was Rs6,000 during the last test, should be between Rs500 and Rs1,000 as around 200,000 students appear in exam. Academicians should also be involved in the process,” Dr Sajjad said.

The PMC media coordinator was contacted for official version of the commission but he failed to get any response from the top management.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2021

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