The opposition on Thursday decried the selection of New GPC as the only pre-qualified agency to supply drugs to the health sector and renewed their call for the urgent establishment of a Public Procurement Commission (PPC).
“All of this points to (the need to) have the Public Procurement Commission in place because all of these awards are still sending a mixed message… it called into question the performance criteria used and how that was formulated to give one company an advantage,” Opposition Leader David Granger told Stabroek News on Thursday.
The Trinidad-based ANSA McAl which was not pre-qualified for the supply of drugs has since formally protested the decision to the procuring agency, the Ministry of Health.
The APNU leader said that he believes that when decisions, such as having only one company selected from a series of others during the prequalification exercise is made, it dissuades other companies from bidding. “Other companies, they do not feel they are operating on a level playing field…and it is certainly harmful to competitive business,” he lamented.
The Party’s Shadow Minister of Public Works, Joe Harmon echoed his leader’s viewpoints stressing that the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) should be shut down and replaced with the PPC urgently. “The whole NPTAB I think they should shut it down. It serves no purpose. The people are just there to carry out government’s bidding,” he charged.
“From the onset when they set the conditions it was so (New GPC) could get the contract…the whole scenario was started long ago not when they began evaluations …it is intended to keep the New GPC as the main supplier and it makes a mess of what we term fair,” he added.
According to the evaluation criteria, bidders were awarded points according to how they scored on a number of questions in the categories of ‘General Information,’ ‘Financial Capacity,’ ‘Infrastructure,’ ‘Previous Experience,’ ‘Established Linkages,’ ‘Manufacturer/ Distributor Information,’ ‘Quality Information’ and ‘Product Information.’ It said that out of 200 available points, all entities seeking to pre-qualify to bid for contracts must score 80 percent.
The criteria also stated that preference will be given to pharmaceutical manufacturers in Guyana and companies that have appropriate warehousing facilities here.
Further, the document pointed out 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 asked whether an applicant is a legally-registered company in Guyana and awarded a maximum score of 5 points for this. Under Financial Capacity, an applicant earned 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.
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 the 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, specialized overseas agencies had supplied over 90% of the government’s requirements.
During this year’s budget estimates deliberations, Health Minister Dr Bheri 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.
Meanwhile, Alliance For Change leader Khemraj Ramjattan told Stabroek News said that his party will issue a full statement on the issue.
He said that it came as no surprise to his party that only New GPC was selected as from the inception of the formulation of the new criteria his party had stressed that it was tailor-made in favour of that company.