Apology not enough …Opposition maintains Dr Norton should be brought before Privileges Committee

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The Opposition People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) is far from satisfied with government’s announcement that Public Health Minister Dr George Norton will be asked to issue a public apology for misleading statements made in the Parliament in relation to the sole sourcing of a bond to store medicines and medical supplies for the Health Ministry and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

Minister Raphael Trotman
Minister Raphael Trotman

According to the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Minister Norton should appear before the Privileges Committee and face the full brunt of the penalties.

The PPP/C is also of the view that the entire Cabinet must take full responsibility for the ware ‘house’ deal fiasco and must account to both the National Assembly and the nation for its actions.

“It is to be recalled that when the Minister was asked in the National Assembly to provide the details with respect to the location, the rental and certification of the bond, Norton sought to make a mockery of the questions which his colleagues on the government benches supported with mirth and loud laughter having found his explanations highly amusing, notwithstanding the fact that millions of taxpayers’ money was involved in the fiasco. In addition, Parliament was advised by the Prime Minister that all the issues concerning the bond went to Cabinet for consideration and was fully discussed and approved. The matter therefore is one of collective responsibility and not solely Norton’s,” the PPP stated in a press release this afternoon.

Earlier today, Minister Raphael Trotman, who had been appointed as head of the Cabinet Sub-Committee that had been established by President David Granger on Wednesday night to probe the controversies surrounding the above mentioned issues, told the media that the report had been completed and it has been recommended that the contract to the Linden Holdings Inc. bond be reviewed.

It had been previously agreed that there be a three-year contract for lease of the new storage bond at a cost of $12.5M on a monthly basis.

According to Minister Trotman, the Public Health Minister is being requested to make a public apology over his statements made in the National Assembly about the payment to the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (NGPC) and also about the Linden Holdings Inc. bond already being operational.

Trotman also stated that while Dr Norton may have misled the National Assembly as to some aspects of the much talked about contract, the Cabinet Sub-Committee toured the new storage bond and is satisfied that it is capable of storing medicinal drugs in keeping with requirements from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

However, the Opposition is maintaining that the facility is substandard and therefore far from ready to store medicine and medical supplies for the nation.

The PPP/C is also of the firm belief that the APNU+AFC Administration violated Guyana’s procurement laws when it opted to sole source the facility from Linden Holding Inc.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo at a press conference, yesterday, was at pains to explain that while the PPP/C Government had been accused of sole sourcing drugs from NEW GPC, this was not the case. He said that the NEW GPC was pre-qualified as a supplier – an option that was available to all potential suppliers.

Jagdeo insisted that Government’s resort to single sourcing, in this case, breached the procurement laws since it did not meet the requirements. He maintained too that there was no rental agreement with NEW GPC for the use of its bond as it was provided free of cost.

He added that the figures quoted by Dr Norton was in fact a VAT inclusive quotation that was submitted to Government for rental of a state-of-the-art, certified 70,000 square foot facility. The NEW GPC proposal works out to G$237 per square foot.

However, the NEW GPC proposal was disregarded, according to Jagdeo, who said Government instead made advance payments to use a 10,000 square foot, sub-standard facility, at a rental fee of G$12.5 million and this works out to G$1250 per square foot.

This essentially means that Government is paying five times the amount asked for by NEW GPC for a facility that is essentially seven times smaller and does not meet any of the minimal international standards required for such facility.

 

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