Trinidadian conglomerate ANSA McAL plans to write the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) to find out where in the Ministry of Health’s pre-qualification evaluation for the supply of drugs they failed.
“I am in contact with Head Office (in Trinidad) seeking permission to proceed to write the procurement board to ask what areas ANSA McAL was not able to meet in the pre-qualification selection,” the company’s Managing Director Beverly Harper told Stabroek News yesterday.
Under the Procurement Act, ANSA McAL has five working days in which to submit a written protest to the Ministry of Health, which is the procuring entity.
“A bidder whose tender or proposal has been rejected may submit a written protest to the procuring entity…the protest may pertain to the pre-qualification or tendering proceedings or to the method of procurement selected by the procuring entity…the protest must be submitted within five business days following publication of the contract award decision,” the Act states.
On Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon announced that only the New GPC was pre-qualified to supply drugs to the health sector and said that it was because the company outscored competitors not only in safety requirements but also in local investment.
The Trinidadian conglomerate and New GPC were among seven companies which submitted pre-qualification documents on February 18th to the NPTAB. Western Scientific Company, another firm out of Trinidad and Tobago, also sought 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.
The prequalification process aroused great public interest as there are concerns that the government has consistently favoured the New GPC over the past decade or so for drug supplies because of the close relationship between senior government officials and the head of the New GPC. Billions of dollars are at stake in these contracts. This pre-qualification of suppliers covers the period 2014 to 2016.
Last year, amid great controversy, the government unveiled a new pre-qualification process. Critics argued that the new criteria were tailored to favour New GPC.
Harper stated that she was surprised to hear that ANSA McAL was not selected and stressed that she remains confident that her company met the required percentage to be pre-qualified. “In our estimation we met the boundaries they asked for which was 80 (%) of all requirements,” she said. Many observers had pointed out that if pre-qualified, ANSA’s entry could shake up the drug procurement market.
Stabroek News was informed that while local and foreign companies expected to be thoroughly investigated by the expert panel, not only through documents submitted, concern was expressed that during the evaluation process, no one ever visited their facility or requested still or other images that would have given clarity to claims made in their application.
Asked yesterday to address the issue of safety and storage raised by Luncheon, Harper declined to speak until given the go-ahead by her superiors in Trinidad.
She did inform, however, that two months ago her company had written the NPTAB querying when the evaluation process would be completed. She said that it was only two weeks ago that they received a reply from NPTAB stating that their correspondence was received and that the process was ongoing.
Stabroek News was shown one of ANSA McAL’s storage bonds and an employee pointed out that the company has the requisite cold storage that is needed for some drugs. The employee also explained that the company is a major distributor locally for many brand name drugs for companies such as Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, Baxter and many others. “Internationally recognized companies have their own standards and criteria for suppliers and they would not give to companies not credible to distribute their drug…,” the employee stated.
“The evaluators never one day visited us to see what we had or what we did. How can that be due diligence,” the employee questioned.
When one official was asked if evaluators should have visited companies to ascertain their ability to meet the criteria specified, the official stated that given the magnitude of the monies involved and the public attention given to the subject, it would have been best.