$605M Pharma scandal: There are grounds for Lawrence’s dismissal- PPP

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Bishop Juan Edghill

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has made an aggressive call for the governing Board of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), to provide information, by way of minutes of its meeting, to show who gave the go ahead for the $605 million contract to ANSA McAL

The call was made by PPP Member of Parliament (MP) Bishop Juan Edghill earlier today, who said that should the minutes prove that the order was given by the Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence, then it would only prove that the new minister, who knows much about the pros and cons of procurement, has overstepped her boundary and as such, should be removed from her post as the Public Health Minister.

“This cannot be right, everybody has cried out against it,” Edghill told the news conference today.

According to the MP, if there is a crisis at the hospital; it is not for the minister to intervene but the Board.

“So if this is not an act of corruption, I call on the Chairman of the Board to make available the minutes of the meeting where this was disclosed to them and what was disclosed to them to act in remedying the emergency situation.” Edghill said the situation is a case where a political decision was made, after which, it would seem that the officer of the tender board was expected to comply administratively to facilitate “an improper transaction”.

Moreover, he posited that Lawrence’s justification of the whole sole sourcing scandal was very poor, especially since the advertisements for drug procurement for the medial facility were cancelled on four prior occasions. 

Management of the Georgetown Public Hospital have been accused of deliberating creating an emergency situation in order to sole source drugs from its preferred supplier.

The Parliamentarian further stated that Lawrence was no stranger to the procurement laws in Guyana  and since she chaired the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament, she should be well informed of the concerns of the Auditor General with regards to sole sourcing.

Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence

Lawrence, who recently took over the senior ministerial post from Dr. George Norton, came under fire for handing a $605 million contract to ANSA McAl for the procurement of drugs for the GPHC.

Since the scandal broke local manufacturers have come forth and shown that the public treasury could have saved as much as half the amount being spent with ANSA McAl had the health ministry utilized the other available agencies to provide the very items at much cheaper prices than what was quoted by ANSA McAL.

Local manufacturer, NEW GPC INC, in a statement had said  that it could have supplied many of the items instantaneously, since there is usually inventory on hand. In a worst-case scenario, the company said, the delay would have been less than a few days to get the products manufactured right here in Guyana.

Lawrence in her initial speech on the scandal recused herself and laid blame squarely at the feet of the suppliers, the procurement body and staff of her Ministry and GPHC among others she deemed as “moles.”

She had outlined in her initial statement that her impetus for giving the contract to the Trinidadian company ANSA McAL, was because procurement for the “engineered shortage” of pharmaceuticals needed to be expedited and “ANSA McAL not only airfreighted the drugs (this helped spike the cost to import the items) for the public health sector, but also donated four refrigerators to GPHC to store the emergency supplies at the internationally acceptable temperature of 20 to 80 C.”

Head of State David Granger had stated that disciplinary actions will be taken against anyone found to be at fault as it relates to the recent sole scouring of pharmaceuticals for the GPHC.

Meanwhile, Lawrence maintains that her decision to access the medical supplies from ANSA McAL was triggered by their urgent need at the GPHC.

She defended her decision this morning on local radio program jumpstart; she said she has no problem with the issue being investigated. In fact, she said she has already requested of the GPHC Board to launch its own investigation to determine whether all regulations and standards were upheld in the process.

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