PPP/C calling on Procurement Commission to investigate Sussex St. Drug-Bond deal

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The Opposition People’s Progressive Party/ Civic  (PPP/C) has for the second time approached the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), this time calling for an investigation into a contract inked between the Ministry of Public Health and a known financier of the coalition Administration for the use of a Sussex Street, Albouystown house to be used as a storage bond for drugs and medical supplies.

The Sussex Street bond

The formal request was made by former Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Bishop Juan Edghill, who on Monday wrote to PPC Chairperson, Carol Corbin, indicating that the political opposition is seeking “a definitive pronouncement specifically addressing if this award was done in a fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective manner according to our procurement laws.”

The Former Government Minister in calling for the investigation wants the Procurement Commission to investigate specifically how was a contract for a bond for the storage of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies sole sourced from an entity that did not own and / or operate such a facility and further “how was the company’s primary director, Larry Singh, made aware that a drug bond was needed.”

Since the argument presented by the Ministry of Health—in defence of the contract—Edghill is also looking to ascertain “who made the decision to sole source and under what circumstances; what was the emergency referred to by the Minister; wow was the Linden Holdings Inc. engaged to ink a contract?”

Among the other concerns listed by Edghill in his request for an investigation, the Member of Parliament is questioning, why did the contract stipulate rental of “office space” and not rental of a pharmaceutical bond and whether this price is fair as it relates to market value for similar such facilities.

A Cabinet Sub Committee investigation had recommended the contract be re-negotiated since a similar facility could be had at a cheaper cost.

The Member of Parliament in his list of queries to the PPC Chairperson questioned whether, taxpayers are in fact receiving value for money on the $14.5M monthly arrangement.

At the time the Ministry of Public Health had also indicated that the facility adheres to WHO/PAHO standards for facilities used for the storage of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and as such compliance has been listed among the concerns.

Edghill is also asking the Procurement Commission to investigate what breaches took place in the procurement process and to identify any recommendations for remedial action and preventative measures for its re-occurrence.

Opposition MP, Bishop Juan Edghill

The Member of Parliament in his request to the PPC noted that the public information is that the contract for this bond was sole sourced and that significant sums of public monies are continually being expended on its rental and other operational costs.

On August 23, 2016, an unsigned copy of the contract was released to the public which illustrated that the rental contract is in fact for “office space” and not a bond for the storage of pharmaceuticals.

According to Edghill “in  spite of the public statements made by the Minister of Public Health in the National Assembly and the specially appointed Cabinet Sub- Committee that the Bond is PAHO/WHO compliant, the contract makes for no such stipulation…The contract also includes exceedingly generous conditions for the landlord for three years and includes a twelve-month notice of termination.”

He recalled that the issue with the Sussex Street Bond facility came up for the first time in the National Assembly on August 8, 2016, when the Committee of Supply examined the supplementary provisions requested by the Government for money for several state agencies and projects.

The National Assembly debated an allocation of some $87.5M and discovered that $25M was already spent as a security deposit, in addition to $12.5M representing monthly rentals from August to December 2016. The sums were paid to the Linden Holding Inc.

After multiple questions were asked and concerns raised, in mid-August 2016, Minister Raphael Trotman, according to reports from the Department of Public Information, disclosed that a sub-committee was appointed by President Granger and comprised himself as the Chairman, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and Minister of State Joseph Harmon. The committee, after a review, recommended that the contract be renegotiated.

During the debate on the 2017 Budget in December 2016, a parliamentary delegation accompanied by the media visited the Bond and found condoms, lubricants and some unused refrigerators, but no pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

With no further action by the government, on January 16, 2017, following the news of Minister Volda Lawrence taking responsibility of Public Health, the People’s Progressive Party repeated its call for the ‘drug bond’ contract to be rescinded.  Its statement read as follows:-

“Having regard to a new Minister being appointed to the Ministry of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, and with the clarifications from Dr. George Norton that the decision to enter into the controversial rental contract of a premise on Sussex Street for $14M per month, was a decision of Cabinet, it is expected that this contract will now be rescinded.”

To date the Ministry continues to rent the Sussex Street facility.

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