Govt once again sole sourcing from Ansa McAl, this time $515M in drugs

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…as Secret Cabinet memo surfaces

Despite pronouncements that government breached the laws of Guyana to award a $605M drug contract to one of its corporate supporters, the Administration has once again sidelined the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) to once again sole source in excess of half a billion dollars in drugs from Ansa McAl.

The leaked secret Cabinet document outlines that the sub-committee considered and approved the procurement of emergency pharmaceuticals to the tune of $515.2M.

The sole sourcing practice was vehemently railed against by the then opposition, now government, the coalition A Partnership for national Unity Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC).

Based on the contents of the document seen, the request to bypass NPTAB was submitted by the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan and seeks to waive the competitive bidding and evaluation process in favour of sole sourcing the emergency supplies from Ansa McAl.

The award of the contract is reminiscent of a similar contract that was handed to Ansa McAl to the tune of $605M, for which the Public Procurement Commission had launched an investigation and had found that there were breaches of Guyana’s Procurement laws in order to facilitate the purchase.

Ansa McAl is the company that had built a multi-million-dollar Arch which was donated to the APNU/AFC Administration, subsequently erected on the East Coast Demerara (ECD) Highway.

The request was approved on Monday last and purportedly bears the signature of the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, with the document being circulated to the Ministers of Finance and Public Health respectively.

While the laws of Guyana does provide for the Single Sourcing of goods and services, these are obtained under special circumstances as spelled out in the Procurement Act.

According to that legislative instrument, “The procuring entity may engage in single-source procurement when – (a) the goods or construction are available only from a particular supplier or contractor, or a particular supplier or contractor has exclusive rights with respect to the goods or construction, and no reasonable alternative or substitute exists; (b) the services, by reason of their highly complex or specialized nature, are available from only one source.”

Single sourcing from a supplier is also permitted owing to a catastrophic event and there is an urgent need for the goods, services or construction, making it impractical to use other methods of procurement because of the time involved in using those methods.

Government in 2016 had allocated in its Budget some $4.8B for the procurement of drugs but of that amount $4.4B was spent by the administration using handpicked suppliers including the owner of the controversial Sussex Street ‘drug bond.’

The investigation by the Public Procurement Commission had found that procurement laws had been broken.

Chairperson Carol Corbin, at the time had said “As everyone noted, if the entity was supposed to go to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board and they did not do that, then the law was broken. So, yes, it was found that laws were broken.”

That report has since been submitted to the national Assembly but the nation will have to await its return from its annual recess next month before having access to the findings.

Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, who had recently taken over the position from Dr George Norton, had come under intense public scrutiny when it was discovered that she was integral in pushing for the purchase of the supplies using the sole sourcing methods.

She had subsequently denied any involvement in the drug purchase arrangement but not before a missive was released by that Ministry which indicated that it was the Public health Minister that wanted to fast track the drug purchase by seeking to bypass the NPTAB.

Drug purchases by and for the nation’s premier health institutions had come under intense scrutiny earlier this year when probity by the political opposition had found glaring discrepancies and breaches of the laws of Guyana.

It was discovered that more that 90% of the drugs’ purchases made this past year were done on an emergency basis.

Promoting Opposition Member of Parliament, Bishop Juan Edghill in the National Assembly to quip “are we manufacturing emergencies to avoid proper procurement…this manipulating of the system must stop!”

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