PHARMAGATE SCANDAL: Cabinet took decision to deliberately exclude NEW GPC
* Public Health Minister to offer public apology for “blatant lies”
The Government of Guyana deliberately opted to exclude the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (NEW GPC INC), when it began exploring available options for the storage of drugs and medical supplies for the Public Health Ministry in July of this year.
Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman made the startling revelation on Thursday when he presented a report of the findings of a Cabinet sub-committee that had been established to investigate a contract entered into between the Public Health Ministry and Linden Holding Inc.
Questioned about the reasons for not utilising a public competitive bidding process to secure the services of a storage bond, Trotman, who chaired that Cabinet Sub-Committee said Government needed to find space immediately and that was the “mood” of Cabinet, and the invoices totalling US$137,000 received from the NEW GPC pushed it to move in that direction.
NEW GPC opted to submit an invoice for use of its facility – which was provided free of cost over the past decade – since Government had terminated the arrangement which saw the company providing its facility free to the Public Health Ministry.
“Cabinet felt that with the NEW GPC being a supplier and now a competitor and open bidder, since Government was moving away from the sole sourcing, that it would have been unfair for other bidders to compete in a process where NEW GPC was also conveniently providing warehouse space for Government.”
According to Minister Trotman, it would have been highly unfair for other persons to know that Government continued in a relationship with one of the competitors… So with that in mind, the Minister was told to make the issue a priority and he knew very well that time was of the essence.”
He suggested too that Government felt that the immediate demand for payment of US$137,000 from NEW GPC seemed ‘beyond coincidental.’ Minister Trotman disclosed however that Government did in fact owe NEW GPC for the use of its facilities and a decision has been taken to make the necessary payments.
NEW GPC submitted invoices to Government for use of its facilities from March 1, 2016.
Meanwhile, Trotman said that among the recommendations coming out of the Cabinet Sub Committee’s investigation, is that there will be an urgent review of the contract between the Public Health Ministry and Linden Holding Inc.
He said too that it was also recommended that in light of the statements made by Minister Norton and based on his explanation, which Government said it has accepted, that the Health Minister makes a public apology for the statements he made in the National Assembly, and explain that those statements were made in light of the advice he had received.
He said members of the Committee were satisfied with the answers provided by Minister Norton and understood better the context in which he made his comments.
Norton came under fire earlier this week, when he revealed in the National Assembly that some $25 million out of a $930 million Contingency Fund advance was paid to Larry Singh for the use of his building – Linden Holding Inc – for the storage of Government medicines. This is in addition to another $12.5 million paid as the first month’s rent.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Wednesday had accused the Public Health Minister of telling “blatant lies” to the Members of the National Assembly when he was grilled on the contract on Monday last.
Trotman nonetheless defended the use of the storage bond owned by Linden Holding Inc, saying the facility is on par with international standards, in terms of temperature, cold storage, security etc.
“It was found that the building had been prepared and was about to receive the first shipment of drugs when the proposal was made that a central air conditioning be installed”, Trotman told journalists on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Minister Trotman along with the Health Minister and other officials toured the Sussex Street bond, where everything, according to Trotman, seemed to be in order. He did point out however, that there has not yet been any storage of drugs at the facility, as was indicated by Dr Norton.
But concerns still lingered over the procurement of the bond since the building was reportedly bought in March this year for $25 million.
Minister Trotman said he sees the situation as nothing more than a coincidence, since there is no way Government could have paid for the building in March when approval for the payment of $25 million to Singh’s Linden Holding Inc, was only made in July.
Trotman told media operatives that the Public Health Minister is not in the business of procuring buildings, since that is not within his remit as Minister. He explained that Norton was asked by Cabinet in July to find a building.
“We were informed in July that there is a possibility of this building. I see it as nothing more than a coincidence that the price paid and the price of the security deposit and the first month rental are the same. Because there is no way Government could have paid for the building in March because Cabinet did not approve any payment until July,” he said.
He said after Cabinet informed the Minister about the urgency to find a building, it would be the task of his officials of the Ministry, to get around to doing such.