A decision is still to be made to identify qualified suppliers of drugs for the health sector, although the pre-qualification period elapsed at the end of last month and the awarding of contracts has been halted.
Minister of Health Dr Bheri Ramsaran says that a decision and subsequent announcement will be made “sooner than later.”
“I can’t tell you exactly when but hopefully sooner than later,” Ramsaran told Stabroek News yesterday when questioned on a timeframe for the announcement.
“That issue was discussed today at the Cabinet Sub-Committee meeting on health and the PS [Permanent Secretary] Mr. [Leslie] Cadogan has to prepare the necessary documents, what are the decisions made and so forth… the PS has been instructed to prepare the way,” he said.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon informed yesterday also that tendering for drugs has halted and would not commence until the new pre-qualified companies were announced. Further, he stated that the Ministry of Health is working around clock to have the evaluation completed and government expects an announcement soon.
“Minister Ramsaran provided an update to Cabinet about two weeks ago about the task of getting the prequalification procedure completed but until the results comes from the tender board (NPTAB) to Cabinet, there is no possibility of us pronouncing on its completion,” Luncheon responded, when asked by Stabroek News for an update yesterday.
“I would believe that if the June 30th deadline expired, that the minister would be with working with alacrity on putting a new prequalification model replacement,” he added.
Asked what government would do should there be a medical emergency requiring drugs, he said that he hopes that the situation does not arise and that the prequalification process would be completed by then.
Further, he pointed out that sole sourcing of drugs was still legal and could be used in specified legal circumstances, such as if a medical emergency arose.
This pre-qualification of suppliers is to cover the period 2014 to 2016 and comes amid concerns that new pre-qualification criteria were tailored to favour New GPC, which was awarded billions of dollars in drug supply contracts over the years.
According to the evaluation criteria, bidders will be awarded points according to how they score on a number of questions in the categories of ‘General Infor-mation,’ ‘Financial Capacity,’ ‘Infrastructure,’ ‘Previous Experience,’ ‘Established Link-ages,’ ‘Manufacturer/Distributor Information,’ ‘Quality Informa-tion’ and ‘Product Information.’ It said that out of 200 available points, all entities seeking to prequalify to bid must score 80 percent.
Preference will be given to pharmaceutical manufacturers in Guyana and companies that have appropriate warehousing facilities in Guyana, according to the evaluation criteria document. It said too that products manufactured in Guyana and certified by the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department automatically qualify and are eligible for a 10 percent price advantage compared with imported items.
Under General Information, the evaluators will ask whether an applicant is a legally-registered company in Guyana and will award a maximum score of 5 points for this. Under Financial Capacity, an applicant will earn maximum points for having a turnover of $1 billion, net assets of over $500 million and paying at least $50 million a year in corporate taxes to the Treasury.
In addition, 5 points are awarded if a company has over 50 full-time employees with an average time on the job of three years. Under Infrastructure, 10 points are given if the applicant has a warehouse facility of 30,000 square feet in Georgetown or its environs, with suitable equipment, staff, IT, security, certification and sanitation. An additional 5 points are awarded if the facility has three separate temperature control zones for the storage of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals. Having a separate area for the storage of controlled substances, i.e. narcotics, will attract a score of 10 points.
While many of the criteria are reasonable for developing countries seeking to boost local drug manufacturing, the continued favouring of New GPC, which became prominent during the Bharrat Jagdeo administration, has led the political opposition to charge that the government’s intention is to steer the majority of drug supply business to New GPC no matter what. Reputable international suppliers, which may not have warehouses here, are not locally-registered and clearly do not have turnover of $1 billion would be automatically shut out, critics argue.
Prior to New GPC’s rise to prominence, specialised overseas agencies had supplied over 90% of the government’s requirements.
New GPC has a close relationship with the PPP/C government and opposition MPs have for years questioned the circumstances under which drug supply contracts were awarded to the company. During this year’s budget estimates deliberations, Ramsaran told the National Assembly that it is a known fact that New GPC received a large amount of contracts. “Historic data show that the New GPC gets a significant slice of the pie,” he had said.
Ramsaran then also promised to submit to the National Assembly data that shows what percentage of the health sector’s funds went to New GPC for drug supplies and which other companies supplied the Ministry of Health with drugs. A comparative pricing list was also requested for other companies, which Ramsaran promised to deliver. To date, he has not done so.
Trinidadian conglomerate ANSA McAl and New GPC are among seven companies which submitted pre-qualification documents on February 18th last, for the supply and delivery of billions of dollars’ worth of medical supplies for Guyana’s health sector. Western Scientific Company, another firm out of Trinidad and Tobago, is also seeking to supply and deliver pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and other consumables.
The remaining companies, which are all Guyana-based, are Telcom Solutions (Guyana) Inc., Meditron Scientific Sales, International Pharmaceutical Agency (IPA) and Global Healthcare Supplies Inc.