How many more secret contracts would it take to offer better health care to the Guyanese people? Under the Jagdeo-Ramotar decade of squandermania, the PPP spent billions on the health care sector, but yet today we have two patients being asked to share the same bed at the Georgetown Public Hospital and Berbicians continuing to die for simple reasons such as childbirth. The truth is the Guyanese medical system is broken, thanks to the lack of leadership by the former Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy and all those sole sourced contracts for medical supplies given to the best friend of Mr Jagdeo at a price in many cases over the real market value of the products. Both the former and the current ministers of health defended the sourcing of the medical supplies from Mr Jagdeo’s friend.
The current Minister of Health gave the most lame excuse in Parliament when he said that he inherited a broken health care system, but he has had more than a year to fix it and has failed to do so. If the Minister cannot fix the problems at the Georgetown hospital, how would he manage the new Specialty Hospital that he wants to build at the taxpayers’ expense? But if the Minister is correct in saying that the Indian government would build the Specialty Hospital at no cost to the taxpayers and as a gift to the people of Guyana, then the AFC and APNU would surely support it.
However, if this is not the case, then the investment risk must be diversified to other stakeholders, and not only the Guyanese taxpayers who would have limited access to it. But what is more pertinent to the AFC voting down the Specialty Hospital project is the non-transparent manner in which the contract was awarded. We understand that the contractor has never built a specialty hospital, so how did the contractor obtain the contract?
So our message to Minister Ramsaran and the Minister of Finance is that the AFC wants to help the government, not undercut it. Thus the ministers’ personal attacks against the leader of the AFC, Mr Ramjattan could only make matters worse, and they should act more maturely. Mr Ramjattan is not the AFC. The AFC has many other strategic-thinking leaders and even if he did not take the lead on this issue, some other AFC MP would have exposed the project for what it is. It would be wise for all those in the government to pay more attention to the combined leadership of the AFC and not focus on one individual. It would be a colossal error to do so.
But the ‘group think’ PPP’s only focus is on personality and not issues. They love to spread propaganda and distort the truth rather than deal with the facts. They love to make promises knowing fully well that they would not be kept. They love to call their critics vulgar names and cuss them down for exposing corrupt practices, and for spending the taxpayers’ money as if it is their own, and for not being honest with the people, including their own PPP members and supporters. They love to believe that they are the only ones with brains who know what is best for the country and the people. They love to behave as though they are better than the rest of us and could break the law at will and not face the consequences.
We want the public to know that the AFC problem with the Specialty Hospital has nothing to do with Mr Ramjattan personally or any other AFC MP; it has to do with the principle that the contract was awarded in a non-transparent manner. That is the issue we want the Minister of Finance to get busy with and stop the infantile politics of attacking an honest man of integrity ‒ Mr Ramjattan. The PPP should pay more attention to the process when dealing with megaprojects next time. They must engage the stakeholders more; consult far and wide, and of course, bring full transparency to the transaction.
To this end, the government should heed the majority opposition call for the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission. We are convinced that the Indian government will appreciate these measures in light of the fact that they have their own transparency trouble with Anna Hazare, the person responsible for launching the anti-corruption crusade in India.
Government should re-tender these projects in a fair, equitable and above-board manner under the auspices of the Public Procurement Commission. Until these projects are re-tendered under transparent conditions only then will they get the full support of all the people of Guyana and the majority opposition. It is absolutely unfair to the taxpayers that all these contracts are being signed without their involvement, but they are being asked to foot the bill at the end of the day. This is not accountability.
This Specialty Hospital deal reminds the nation that while thousands of Guyanese have been doing more in their personal lives with less, the government continues to do less with more as is evident in the country’s largest budget of $208.8 billion.
Harish S Singh