…promises to end rental of controversial bond by December 2018
The Ministry of Public Health will stop the rental of drug bonds, in particular, one at Sussex Street, Charlestown, to Linden Holdings Inc, by the end of 2018.
This was the new commitment made by Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence who also had made the same promise in 2017 that the controversial rental of the Sussex street drug bond would be no more by the end of that year.
The bond is currently being rented by the ministry to house a CT Scanning machine.
According to Lawrence, the expensive piece of equipment requires stringent specifications for storage and, according to the minister, the bond fits these requirements.
The machine is to be sent to the Bartica Regional Hospital upon completion of a building to install the equipment. This building at Bartica is currently under construction and will be completed shortly.
“As soon as they (the regional authorities give us clearance that the room is ready, we are ready to remove that CT scanner to Bartica and give up that bond. As a matter of fact, I am on record saying that as of the 31st December 2018 the Ministry of Public Health will not be renting any more bonds,” Minister Lawrence explained.
Lawrence noted, that the ministry has budgeted for the construction of a drug bond in Kingston, Georgetown while expansion work on the Diamond bond is underway, while outlining that the ministry’s adoption of a new procurement system for drugs and medical supplies will require them to have adequate, specified and suitable spaces for the storage of these supplies.
The Health Minister’s utterances comes on the heels of the revelation made in National Assembly, in response to questions on notice from the Parliamentary Opposition, that the state has paid out over $264 million in rental fees.
In the response tabled in the National Assembly during Monday’s sitting, Lawrence stated that from July 2016 to March 2018, the sum of $264.5 million was paid to Linden Holdings Incorporated.
This company is linked to local businessman Larry Singh, a People’s National Congress (PNC) financier.
When it comes to action being taken to end the arrangement, Lawrence revealed that a Notice of Quit dated October 31, 2016, was sent by the then Permanent Secretary of the Public Health Ministry, Trevor Thomas.
Further, current Permanent Secretary Colette Adams had sent a reminder dated October 3, 2017. There is no mention of the company’s response to these notices. As of March, it is understood that the bond was still being rented.
The transaction first came to light in 2016 during consideration of Financial Papers, when it was discovered that Government had in fact entered a contract to pay a VAT-excluded $12.5 million monthly rental to Linden Holdings Inc for the storage of drugs and medical supplies.
It was also discovered that $25 million was already spent as a security deposit, in addition to $12.5 million, representing monthly rentals from August to December 2016. The sums were paid to the Linden Holdings Inc.
The criticisms that erupted after the scandal that occurred under then Health Minister Dr George Norton led President David Granger to set up a Cabinet sub-committee to investigate the matter and make recommendations.
That committee which comprised Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman as the Chairman, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and Minister of State Joseph Harmon concluded that the contract should be terminated or re-negotiated, since a similar facility could have been found at a cheaper rate.
During the debate on the 2017 Budget in December 2016, a parliamentary delegation accompanied by the media visited the Bond and found condoms, lubricants and some unused refrigerators, but no pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
The parliamentary opposition has since formally requested that the Public Procurement Commission investigate the transaction.
It has since been reported in the media that the expensive CT-scanner that the Minister is referring to is worth approximately $1.8M, while the monthly rent of the bond exceeds $12M.