ANSA McAl protests drug supplies decision

ANSA McAl yesterday formally dispatched correspondence to the Ministry of Health asking that it show where the company failed in its pre-qualification evaluation for the supply of drugs.

Executives of the Trinidad and Tobago-headquartered conglomerate gave the go-ahead for the letter to be sent to the procuring entity as set out under the Procurement Act.

Managing Director Beverly Harper told Stabroek News that as a legal safeguard the company also carbon-copied the letter to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).

This move follows an announcement by Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon on Wednesday, 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 in safety requirements and local investment.

Under the Procurement Act, ANSA McAl had 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.

ANSA McAl and New GPC were among seven companies which submitted pre-qualification documents on February 18 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 Pharmaceu-tical Agency (IPA) and Global Healthcare Supp-lies 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 and was unveiled last year, amid great controversy. Critics argued that the new criteria were tailored to favour New GPC.

Harper said she was surprised to hear that ANSA McAl was not selected as she was confident that her company met the required criteria.

“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, no one ever visited the ANSA McAl facility or requested stills or other images that would have given clarity to claims made in its application.

Harper said her company had written to the Ministry of Health sometime in May, querying when the evaluation process would be completed. She said it was only two weeks ago that a reply came, stating that the correspondence had been received and 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 branded drug companies such as Novartis, Glaxo Smith Kline, Roche, Baxter and many others. “Internationally recognised companies have their own standards and criteria for suppliers and they would not give to companies not credible to distribute their drugs…,” 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.

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