– Team deployed to inspect facility
Following a back-and-forth between Members of Parliament (MP), People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Anil Nandlall and Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton, on whether the controversial Sussex Street facility that was rented by Government for in excess of $14 million to store pharmaceuticals was being used, a delegation was sent by House Speaker Dr Barton Scotland to visit the bond on Thursday evening.
Opposition and Government MPs waiting to enter the bond
The issue arose when Nandlall, during his contribution to the debate on the 2017 National Budget, claimed that no medications are being stored at the facility, which Government is expending millions of dollars on. The Public Health Minister immediately objected to the statement, saying that the bond was in fact being used.
However, the Opposition MP maintained his position since he would have received reports that the bond was not in use and only last week the bridge in front of the building was completed.
The exchange between the MPs prompted the Speaker to identify a team, led by Deputy Clerk Hermina Gilgeours to visit the facility and verify whether drugs are being stored there. Government Chief Whip Amna Ally nominated Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence, while Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira nominated PPP/C parliamentarian Irfaan Ali. Also accompanying the delegation were Minister Norton and Junior Public Health Minister, Dr Karen Cummings along with Opposition second bencher Juan Edghill.
After their arrival at the Bond, the MP’s had to wait for approximately 40 minutes before they were allowed to enter. While inside, the team inspected the facility and discovered items being stored, which included condoms, IUD (Intrauterine Device) insertion kits, lubricants and umbilical cord clamps.
Opposition MP Ali pointed out to the media that there were no sight of any pharmaceuticals being stored there. Furthermore, he pointed out that the facility does not seem to be in operation.
“Nothing seems operational here… the bond has to show a semblance of operation, there have to be inventory control systems in place and so on… In any internationally accredited bond, there is an inventory system, an inventory management system (and) there is a storage system because medical supplies have to be stored in a particular way,” he stated, while he noted that the temperature of the facility was “hot”.
After raising concerns about not seeing any “tablets” being stored at the facility, Minister Lawrence was quick to defend her colleague Minister Norton. “Y’all stop harassing this man here… Stop tarnishing Dr Norton’s reputation,” she told the Opposition MP’s, who were enquiring about actual pharmaceuticals at the facility.
Back at the National Assembly, Ali informed the House that while they were allowed to check the bond, there was no sight of any drugs, and he related the items that were found.
The Speaker pointed out that based on what the Deputy Clerk related the bond seemed to be in use. However, Nandlall insisted that he was talking about the storage of tablets and drugs specifically.
Meanwhile, Lawrence also reported to the House that there were several boxes at the facility and some of them were opened and examined by the Deputy Clerk.
This prompted the House to review the recording from Nandlall’s presentation earlier that evening to ascertain the term he used, which he maintained was “medication”.
It was subsequently suggested that the transcript be produced today to make a determination of what was actually said by the Opposition MP. Despite objections from the parliamentary Opposition, who wanted the matter to be dealt with forthwith, the Speaker deferred the matter until today.