The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has signalled its intention to have Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton reprimanded by the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges, over the “blatant lies” he told the National Assembly regarding Government’s sourcing of a building in Sussex Street, Charlestown, to be used as a storage bond for the nation’s drugs and medical supplies.
This disclosure was made on Wednesday, when Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo met with members of the local media at the Party’s Freedom House Headquarters.
In fact, Jagdeo told media operatives that the Opposition may very well have to go after the entire Cabinet since the decision to front Linden Holding Inc G$25 million from the nation’s coffers was as a result of a Cabinet decision.
The Opposition Leader said the actions of the Government illustrates that there was an attempt to cover up a blatantly corrupt deal to transfer G$12.5 million monthly to a party supporter.
Jagdeo said that the G$25 million which was advanced by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government to Larry Singh’s Linden Holding Inc, was in fact used to purchase the building – formerly a beverage depot for Tom-Boy drinks.
He said the first month’s rental of G$12.5 million that was paid to Linden Holding Inc is what is being used to renovate the facility.
Government, he said, financed the acquisition of the property for Singh and is also “paying to fix it up.”
The Opposition Leader on Wednesday spoke publicly on the matter for the first time since it was first disclosed to the National Assembly.
He said Dr Norton’s “first lie” was to tell the Members of Parliament (MPs) that Government was paying the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation in excess of G$19 million a month for the use of its bond to store drugs and medical supplies.
Jagdeo vehemently denied this charge and said the PPP/C Government, while in office, never paid a cent to NEW GPC INC for the use of its storage bond.
He said the current Government is fully aware of this fact and would have been in possession of all the relevant documentation since taking office.
Another blatant lie told by Dr Norton, according to Jagdeo, is that the Public Health Ministry had begun using the facility now owned by Linden Holding Inc.
Several independent checks have found this to not be the case, since the facility is still in the process of being refurbished. “There is nothing in the bond, it is under construction now,” Jagdeo said.
The Opposition Leader further charged that Government had violated Guyana’s procurement laws when it opted to sole source the facility from Linden Holding Inc.
He 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.
Jagdeo explained that NEW GPC was pre-qualified as a supplier – an option that was available to all potential suppliers.
Dr Norton told the House on Monday that there was an emergency situation which warranted the need for the bond, hence the single sourcing method employed by Government.
Jagdeo has since denied this was the case since the drugs were being stored in NEW GPC’s bond free of cost.
He insists that Government’s resort to single sourcing, in this case, breached the procurement laws since it did not meet the requirements.
No NEW GPC rental
Jagdeo maintained too that there was no rental agreement with NEW GPC for the use of its bond and said that the figures quoted by Dr Norton was in fact a VAT inclusive quotation that was submitted to Government.
The Opposition Leader explained that the quotation submitted by NEW GPC is for the rental of a state-of-the-art, certified 70,000 square foot facility.
He said the NEW GPC proposal works out to G$237 per square foot.
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 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.
INews understands that Government terminated the pre-qualified status of NEW GPC, an arrangement under which the Ministry’s drugs and medical supplies were stored free of cost.
Condemning the arrangement, Jagdeo observed too that this appears to be a new trend emerging with Government.
He pointed to the negotiations for a power purchase agreement for a wind farm proposed by a close affiliate of the coalition, in addition to a fertiliser contract among other similar transactions to have taken place involving supporters of the APNU/AFC coalition and Government involving public money.
He lamented too some of the informal exhortations on the part of Government during the course of the deliberations over the advance payments to Linden Holding Inc.
Jagdeo recalled that there were utterances such as “is we time now… you all did the same thing.”