Jagdeo questions whether GPHC board was structured to facilitate irregularities

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  • in wake of ANSA McAL sole sourcing scandal
  • accuses Govt of bypassing tender boards over unfavourable results

By Ramona Luthi 

Leader of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Dr Bharrat Jagdeo is questioning whether the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) board was purposely restructured to allow the ANSA McAl sole sourcing, among other irregularities.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday Dr Jagdeo explained that the GPHC is an independent agency incorporated by law and that the Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence cannot instruct on who to purchase from, nor what procurement process they should follow since that is the function of the hospital’s Board.

“…so did the Board decide that they are going to go directly to ANSA McALl and how did they find out whether others didn’t have the drugs, or could not supply the drugs?” he questioned, while voicing the theory that the decision could have been made by bypassing the authority of the Board.

“…or was it just a direction from the Minister directly for the Board to do this, so they were bypassing the authority of the Board [since] she has no authority to go there,” the Opposition Leader posited.

Jagdeo also questioned whether persons were removed from the GPHC Board “because they would oppose the same sort of thing that was going on there? Was it a carefully laid out plan to change the composition of the Board so this could happen?”

Nevertheless, the Former President asserted that his party intends to probe the matter highlighting that had this scandal been discovered under the PPP, “every day it would have been front page news.”

In addition, Jagdeo asserted that the “drug shortage” was deliberately created as he made note of four occasions where the GPHC Procurement was canceled.

“The  GPHC procurement on medical supplies advertised on 2nd October, 2016 they canceled that…the GPHC procurement of pharmaceuticals advertised on November 6, 2016 canceled, GPHC procurement of emergency medical supplies number 2 advertised  February 2, 2017 selective tendering cancel; 4 GPHC procurement of emergency medical supplies number 2 advertised on February 2, 2017 selective tendering, that canceled too… This was since October last year, so you deliberately create the shortage,” he told media operatives.

Moreover, Jagdeo noted that the Minister of Public Health left many questions unanswered in her response to the sole sourcing scandal.

“She said people had been delinquent, some of the suppliers, so tell the country who is delinquent. What are the names, if you found people to be delinquent you tell us who the delinquents are and how in the first place, they got the contracts because they didn’t go through public tendering, many of them got the contracts directly… Secondly, what are they delinquent for?”

Alluding to remarks by Minister Lawrence that many of them supplied substandard drugs, Dr Jagdeo urged her to say who supplied substandard drugs and what drugs were substandard?”

Some days ago, it was highlighted that another major corruption scandal appears to be in the making as the management of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation moved to sideline local companies for the procurement of emergency pharmaceuticals worth in excess of $605 million from a Trinidadian firm, ANSA McAL.

Georgetown Public Hospital had delayed and cancelled four out of its five public tenders within the last four months, creating a situation where there is a massive shortage of pharmaceuticals, which was initially denied by the authorities, and which would have caused deaths and aggravated illnesses in patients lacking medication.

One of Guyana’s leading local pharmaceutical manufacturers, the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (NEW GPC INC), questioned the Georgetown Hospital’s decision to ignore local companies, which could have supplied the same quantity and quality of drugs at better prices.

Subsequently, the Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Allan Johnson, on February 28, wrote a letter to the Chairman of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), Berkley Wickham, requesting approval for the procurement of these “emergency drugs” in light of the shortage, from ANSA McAL to the tune of $605,962,200.

This request to bypass the procurement process to sole source drugs from a foreign firm speaks loudly of some public official’s intent to sideline local companies which could have supplied the same pharmaceuticals at cheaper prices.

It raises the issue of motive and possible corruption, which is reminiscent of the earlier decision to rent a non-existent pharma warehouse.

NEW GPC noted that the transaction between Georgetown Public Hospital and ANSA McAL, should it see fruition, would be a breach in the public procurement rules.

Two days later, the Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence finally broke her silence and confirmed that she gave her blessings for $605 million worth of pharmaceuticals to be sole sourced by a Trinidadian firm over local manufacturers.

Meanwhile, after the apparent scandal was brought to light, Head of State President David Granger had stated that disciplinary actions will be taken against anyone found to be at fault.

In addition, prior to this revelation, on March 14, 2017, the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) swore in its new board members. The ceremony which was held at the facility’s Resource Centre saw the installation of the new members, along with the election of the board’s chairman.

The members of the board are Col. Patrick West, Cleopatra Barkoye, Collette Adams (Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Health), Mandy Sukhdeo, Sonya Roopnauth, Kempton Alexander along with Dr. Sheik Amir and Allan Johnson as Ex-Officio Members. The board voted Dr. Hanoman in as the new chairman.

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