Massive amounts of money have been expended by Government on purchasing drugs with no pre-qualification of suppliers or public tendering, thus the Transparency Institute of Guyana Incorporated (TIGI) is questioning the continuous bypassing of the established system of purchasing drugs by using the excuse that “emergency shortages” necessitate this action.
TIGI head, Dr Troy Thomas, has said the system by which Government is procuring drugs is engaging the attention of TIGI. He described this system as “simply not good enough” for a government to have so much emergency drug shortages.
“Ever so often, we are hearing about some emergency necessitating single sourcing or no open tendering; and that’s not good enough,” he said. “I think we need to be planning more ahead, to arrest these situations so that (they do not) happen so often.”
Dr Thomas has stressed that good reasons exist for the systems of open tendering and pre-qualification; and he has emphasised that these systems are in place to ensure Guyana gets value for sums of tax payers’ money expended.
“Procurement practice for anything that involves spending from ‘the public purse’ should include open tendering. So if that was not done in the case that you are talking about, then I would have to question the level of transparency (involved),” he told this publication.
“You need to have open tendering; there’s good reason for that. One, it’s to ensure that you get the best deal. But apart from that, it keeps everything on top of the table. When you’ve got that kind of approach (emergency procurement), it opens up avenues for all kinds of things to happen,” he explained.
According to Dr. Thomas, an investigation would be necessary before blame could be ascribed to specific personnel for the drug shortages and prevailing emergencies. But he noted that official admission that the system of public tendering and pre-qualification had not been followed would cast some amount of doubt on any procurement.
“(The fact) that the mechanism was not followed would cast some doubt on what took place. So I would urge transparency in the operations, and I would question why it seems that so many emergencies are popping up. Is it a matter of planning?” he elaborated.
When the Peoples Progressive Party fielded questions to the ministers of Public Health and Communities in the National Assembly on May 8, Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan revealed that, in nine out of Guyana’s 10 regions, there had been no public tendering for drugs and medical supplies between January 2016 and February 2017.
In addition, in none of the regions was the pre-qualification process followed. All purchases had been made under the “emergency” system.
Opposition Parliamentarian Juan Edghill, who had assisted in fielding the questions, had noted that 77 per cent of the total sum allocated for the acquisition of drugs for the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPHC) had been expended.
Edghill had also noted that when Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence was asked about the amount of money spent on drugs and medical supplies for the Georgetown Public Hospital for January and February 2017, it was revealed that some G$2 billion had already been expended. This sum represents almost 77 per cent of the total sum allocated for the procurement of drugs for the year.
Edghill had, however, pointed out that among the questions posed to the ministers was whether any of the supplier companies had been pre-qualified; and he noted that the answer was “no”.
Pre-qualification is an important part of ensuring quality assurance when works are done or goods are supplied to Government. In this instance, contractors are usually invited to apply to the NPTAB to be pre-qualified or placed on a shortlist for participation in future projects, according to World Health Organisation standards.
In the case of drugs and medical supplies, companies are expected to have adequate warehousing facilities, staff and security, in addition to appropriate certification and impeccable sanitation.
Then Public Health Minister in 2016, Dr George Norton, had stated that changes in the procurement system were likely the cause for the drug shortages being experienced at certain public health facilities across Guyana.
The Public Health Ministry has reportedly introduced a new system for procuring drugs and medical supplies, wherein each region is required to submit to central government a list of drugs needed and the total sum required to make the purchases. Money would then be warranted back to the Public Health Ministry from the regions to facilitate a centralised procurement.