Following the pronouncements made by Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman that government gave its no-objections in awarding, via sole sourcing, a G$135 million contract for medical equipment to Caribbean Medical Supplies Inc, Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton, now affirms he will not be supporting any more procurement contracts that will be sole-sourced.
The AFC/APNU coalition government came under heavy criticism for promulgating the established procurement procedure that they vehemently condemned under the previous Administration.
Trotman had revealed through the press that Caribbean Medical Supplies Inc (CMSI), was awarded the G$135 million contract to sole source medical equipment such as Biohit Pipette Tips and Devices; Nova Express Test Strips; two sets of Beckman Coulter Reagents and Becton Dickenson Syringes, needles and tubes.
In defending the need for the entity to sole source the supplies, Trotman posited that sole sourcing is done when there is the possibility that tendering for supplies would inevitably cause delays which could be detrimental to patients who are in need of critical drugs to be supplied.
He said further: “The process of going out to tender – the time would cause delay in delivery and of course, the downside of that is people’s lives would be affected. So in an effort to avoid any complaint or any loss of life or injury to person as a result to the absence of critical drugs and equipment, we thought it best to approve this particular sourcing.”
However medical sources opined that it was very unlikely the medical laboratory equipment was needed so urgently to “save lives” since they would have been used to conduct routine tests.
According to Dr Norton, the swiftness at which they could acquire the medical equipment is why they opted to go the sole sourcing route, but “it is something we are making every effort to get away from, I can assure you. I thought by now we would be rid of sole sourcing, it still exists, but that is the last sole sourcing that I would defend at Cabinet. I wrote to all those in the process of procurement for the Ministry and said to them in no uncertain terms that I will defer any Cabinet paper seeking approval for sole sourcing.”
INews understands from a well-placed source that the company, CMSI, which was given the sole sourcing contract is allegedly a financier of one of the political parties in the coalition government. This has to be taken against the backdrop of recent pronouncements made in AFC quarters that campaign contributors are “investors who expect returns” on their investments, the source highlighted.
Last November the company which just has an address at Parika with no sign of employees or business activity won its first sole sourced contract to supply G$35.1M of HIV rapid test kits for the ministry of public health. The HIV tests kits were simply bought over the internet and shipped into the country.
In fact, Minister Norton in addressing the observations made about the credibility of the company to deliver such large contracts said: “I must tell you that my Cabinet colleagues, they argued strongly against that particular company, because people wanted to know why is it that this company only formed in 2013, have a large proportion of contracts. I don’t know anything about this company, where it was formed and so on except for the fact that they were recommended by NPTAB [National Procurement and Tender Administration Board].”
The AFC/APNU government was very critical of the composition and structure of the NPTAB when they were in Opposition, in fact, AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan had said that “the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board is compromised, given that all of the members are appointed by the Ministry of Finance and are subject to directives from that Ministry.”
“Now that they are in government, it seems they have adopted this ‘compromising’ stance” said the source.
The Finance Minister, Winston Jordon, had said that a number of reforms to NPTAB were to be addressed but could not disclose what those reforms were going to be and when they would be accomplished. However, since the change of government, NPTAB changed the composition of its board.
According to the reliable source, contrary to what the government is saying, the tenders for contracts are being deliberately delayed, either by NPTAB or higher, so as to facilitate sole sourcing for companies that are aligned to this new administration.