THE PIPER: President must conserve his credibility capital

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Even the most fervent supporter of the APNU/AFC government would accept that the latter has been severely embarrassed by the controversy over the Ministry of Public Health’s (MoPH) imprudent rental of a warehouse to store its pharmaceuticals purchases along with those of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GHPC).

piperAs the lawyers say, “res ipsa loquitur” – the thing speaks for itself. The uncontested facts as revealed by Minister George Norton in the National Assembly when he was forced to explain a line item on spending for medical supplies are as follows: The MoPH had rented the warehouse at the cost of $12.5M/month in March but upon questioning, admitted that $25M had been paid as a “deposit” and $12.5M for July’s rental even though the space was still in the process of being outfitted for its contracted purpose.

The Minister of Health said that in March he sought a new warehouse for drugs because the NEWGPC was charging an “exorbitant” rate of $19.2M/month. He secured the new warehouse for $12.5/monthly. In fact he requested a quotation from the NEWGPC  for use of its 70,000 sq ft warehouse specially designed, equipped, and staffed for receiving, storing and shipping pharmaceuticals. The space was to be shared equally between the MoPH and the GPHC’s stocks. The two entities are presently utilising the NEWGPC’s warehouse for storing pharmaceuticals.

Another fact is the Minister’s statement on the rental. The government  was  deliberately misleading in that he was comparing apples to oranges and his orange wasn’t even ripe. The new space was the lower floor of a house in Albouystown in a residential area and was only 10,000 sq ft in area. For a fair comparison, the Minister should have quoted the price per sq ft  for the two entities.

The Albuoystown location works out to $1250/sq ft and the NEWGPC TO $237/sq ft. If the Ministry wanted 10,000 sq ft from NEWGPC, it should have requested that and its charge would have totalled $2.37M/monthly versus the $12.5M to the new entity. It is unfortunate that after several clarifications issued by the NEWGPC, President David Granger recently repeated the false claim by Minister Norton of a “punitive” charge by the NEWGPC.  One section of the press described NEWGPC’s low quote as “jacked up” when in fact, previously the company had applied NO CHARGES for over a decade for pharmaceuticals.

The Minister also gave false information when he informed Parliament that the NEWGPC had already been paid two months’ rent – $38.5M, when in fact no moneys had been received to date by the corporation. One of the members of the investigating Cabinet sub-committee, Minister Raphael Trotman has already called upon Minister Norton to “apologise” for his canard.

Minister Norton was also parsimonious with the truth when he asserted that the newly contracted entity was inspected and complied with the rigorous WHO/PAHO standards for storing pharmaceuticals. In addition to “conceding” under intense questioning that it was his Ministry that had done the “inspection”, the latter act was impossible since the facility was not even completed and ready for inspection.

The ball on this matter in in President Granger’s court. He would be dissipating a tremendous amount of his credibility capital if he does not act firmly, expeditiously and condignly on this matter. If Minister Norton does not have the moral or political instincts to do the Honourable thing and submit his resignation, then the President would have to request it.

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