The Public Procurement Commission (PPC) has disclosed that they have launched an investigation into the $605 million ANSA McAL sole sourcing contract to supply “emergency” Pharmaceuticals to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
Chair of the PPC, Carol Corbin, in a statement said that the Commission is probing the procurement of pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies, specifically by the Georgetown GPHC, in keeping with its functions as detailed in Article 212 (AA) (1) of the Constitution.
In the statement it was outlined that the PPC “is in the process of collecting and reviewing relevant information from various stakeholders within the national procurement system, and will conduct interviews and examine documentation as deemed necessary.”
Moreover, Corbin said that in the pursuit of an objective investigation the PPC will be “inviting members of the public who may have pertinent information to make written submissions addressed to the Chairperson of the Public Procurement Commission at Parliament Office, Parliament Buildings.”
These submissions will have to be made by April 12, 2017.
Corbin added that since the subject of the investigation is of national interest and has resulted in significant public concern, the Commission will submit its findings to the National Assembly.
The PPC investigation comes on the heels of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) stating that they intend to use the parliamentary platform to gain answers from the Coalition Government regarding the same issue.
“We will proceed to use the parliamentary forum and our rights as the Parliamentary Opposition to question the Ministers and demand that they provide and information that is required,” People’s Progressive Party member, Gail Teixeira said on Wednesday morning.
Teixeira said that when the Opposition sought to “follow up on the scandal,” they were not satisfied with the answers given especially since the Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence was obviously “actively imbedded in the procurement process- in violation of the procurement act and the financial rules and regulations in [Guyana].”
“As a former chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee and a member of that body up to today, spanning over 10 years, she [Lawrence] is very knowledgeable and knows that what she did was not allowed,” the PPP member explained.
During the conference, the Opposition Chief Whip asserted that it is her party’s belief that the $605M in procurement of drugs and medical supplies without a tendering process, on the grounds of there being an emergency shortage, “merely hides a bigger scandal.”
“We believe very strongly that if one were to go and take [a look at the] $2B budget of the Ministry of Public Health for 2016, we will find that 80% of the acquisitions are without tender and in violation of the Procurement Act,” she said.
Additionally, Teixeira stated that Guyanese are being forced to deal with the brunt of this “double whammy” since not only do they have to deal with the shortage of drugs and medical supplies but they have to bear the expensive costs of the very items.
“Tax payers have been hit as a result of these delays in purchasing or acquiring or procuring drugs and medical supplies and therefore have suffered as a result of the shortage of drugs and medical supplies in all the Public Health institutions of Guyana, including immunizations, vaccines, including basic drugs and medical supplies that are absolutely critical in any health facilities…. Secondly, the money, the cost of these drugs and medical supplies are far higher,” she explained.
Earlier in March 2017, it was disclosed that the management of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) reportedly moved to sideline local companies for the procurement of pharmaceuticals worth in excess of $605 million from a Trinidadian firm, ANSA McAL.
A letter written on February 28, 2017 by the Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Allan Johnson, to the Chairman of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), Berkley Wickham, requesting approval for the procurement of these “emergency drugs” in light of the shortage, from ANSA McAL to the tune of $605,962,200, was seen by the media.
It was reported that the Georgetown Public Hospital had delayed and cancelled four out of its five public tenders within the past four months, and created a situation where there was a massive shortage of pharmaceuticals. This shortage was initially denied by the authorities and could have caused several deaths and aggravated illnesses in patients lacking the relevant medication.
One of Guyana’s leading local pharmaceutical manufacturers, the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation Inc. (NEW GPC INC), questioned the Georgetown Hospital’s decision to ignore local companies, which could have supplied the same quantity and quality of drugs at far better prices and more swiftly.
Days after the obvious scandal came to light, Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence finally broke her silence and confirmed that she gave her blessings for $605 million worth of pharmaceuticals to be sole sourced by a Trinidadian firm over local manufacturers.
Minister Lawrence even implied that ANSA McAL received the lucrative contract because they donated refrigerators to GPHC.
Lawrence however, recused herself from the scandal and instead laid blame squarely at the feet of the suppliers, the procurement body and staff of her Ministry and GPHC among others she deemed as “moles.”
Following her confirmation, the Public Health Minister in a conference told media operatives that the Board of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) had launched an investigation into the entire ‘Ansa Mcal sole sourcing scandal’ while the Ministry of Public Health has launched an investigation as well into other matters involving the supply of drugs and medicines.
The Minister also noted that several investigations are ongoing, some of which the police are involved in. (Ramona Luthi)