Pharma scandal: GTUC calls for $605M sole sourcing probe

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Rule of law must be enforced

Government continues to be criticised over the $605 million sole-sourced contract handed to a foreign company for the acquisition of pharmaceuticals for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) is now calling for action to be taken against those responsible.

In the interest of upholding the rule of law in every aspect of governance, the GTUC has said, there should be an immediate investigation into the action taken by Health Minister Volda Lawrence in authorising this level of spending, which is in breach of both the Tender Board process and Public Procurement Law.

Country Head of ANSA McAL in Guyana, Beverly Harper
Country Head of ANSA McAL in Guyana, Beverly Harper

“(The Government) is therefore called upon to launch an investigation into this violation committed by the minister, and to ensure (that) a strong signal is sent to others by (applying) the appropriate sanctions,” a statement from the Union detailed on Friday. According to the GTUC, it is trying to improve the governance system in light of the behaviour of some members within the Government, which suggests disregard for embrace of the rule of law. It is also trying to restore financial accountability and prudence to Government. The union noted that acts which cast aspersions of corruption are evident in the recent move by the Public Health Minister, who knew fully well that authorizing such a large expenditure is not within her remit.

“It is noted that Minister Lawrence is also Chairman of the PNC/R Georgetown District, and therefore her position may be seen as significant to the party and Government. However, such consideration should not be allowed to override any act in violation of the laws,” the GTUC has said. “Acts like those, regardless of who committed (them), should not be allowed to jeopardise the common good. It is also unreasonable to expect silence from sections of society amidst glaring cases of irregularity and impropriety. Failure to act indicts this Government,” the GTIC has posited in its public missive.

Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence
Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence

The trade union body has also reminded that the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission was fought for, and has said that while the former administration was recalcitrant in having it established, the Coalition had insisted on its establishment. However, now a senior Government Minister has arbitrarily determined that she alone, having the best interest of Guyanese at heart, will operate in breach of the law and good practices, on the pretext that there was no other way to meet the immediate demand.

“The minster failed to recognise that such concern could have been channelled to the relevant Tender Board authority for expediting ‘a national need.’ Acts like these, if not nipped in the bud, become pervasive and threaten the welfare of the society,” the GTUC has said.

The Union says that it is with such behaviours that the previous regime started, and the few persons who undertook to condemn those actions were told to give the regime a chance, thereby facilitating a series of behaviours which resulted in “full-fledged rape of the economy” and Transparency International ranking the country the most corrupt in the English-speaking Caribbean. According to the GTUC, in order to avoid continuing along this path, the ruling administration needs to nip in the bud every errant conduct and hold those responsible to account.

“The coalition government is reminded that, whereas (its) current shortcomings pale in comparison to (those) of the PPP/C, these acts of ministerial impropriety and poor governance mark the beginning of what can well develop into more severe circumstances,” the statement added. Furthermore, the GTUC asserted that if the Coalition is serious about retaining its image of stamping out corruption, it must not appear to condone or ignore the violations in financial accountability.

This GTUC call comes one week after President David Granger said, during ‘The Public Interest’ programme last week, that if procedural irregularity is found in regard to the $605 million sole-sourced contract, disciplinary actions would follow.

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

Within the last four months, it has cancelled or delayed four out of its five public tenders, thereby creating a situation wherein there was a massive shortage of pharmaceuticals.

In a letter dated February 28, 2017, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of that hospital (GPHC), Allan Johnson, thanked Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence for authorising the procurement of medical supplies from ANSA McAL to the tune of $605,962,200, even though local firms could have supplied the same quantity and quality of drugs at better prices. (Guyana Times)

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