Drug supplies….Only New GPC pre-qualified

Only the New GPC has been pre-qualified to supply drugs to the health sector and Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon said that it was because the company outscored competitors not only in safety requirements but also in local investment.

“I would say this, if one were to look at the investments that have been made by this company…one can anticipate what kind of rewards or what kind of market control they would have…If you want to have a commandeering presence, you have to put the money in,” Luncheon told reporters at his post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday.

There has been great public interest in this decision 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.

Trinidadian conglomerate ANSA McAl and New GPC were among seven companies which submitted pre-qualification documents on February 18th to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board. 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 Solu-tions (Guy-ana) Inc., Meditron Scientific Sales, Inter-national Pharmaceu-tical Agency (IPA) and Global Healthcare Sup-plies Inc.

Yesterday, representatives of two of the companies that submitted documents expressed disbelief that their companies were not selected and one stated that they were skeptical in applying as they had foreseen that the decision would have turned out the way it did.

One company’s CEO has in the past also criticized the evaluation criteria to select companies.

According to the evaluation criteria, bidders would be awarded points according to how they score on a number of questions in the categories of ‘General Information,’ ‘Financial Capacity,’ ‘In-frastructure,’ ‘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.

According to the criteria, preference will be given to pharmaceutical manufacturers in Guyana and companies that have appropriate warehousing facilities here.

The evaluation criteria document said too that products manufactured in Guyana and certified by the Government Analyst Food and Drug Depart-ment 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.

Luncheon when asked about the public’s view that the evaluation was biased in favour of the New GPC said: “It is biased in terms of safety.”

In his justification of the selection, the HPS maintained that safety was key in the evaluation process. “Safety is important …yuh ain’t going no way without addressing the issue of drug safety,” he stressed.

While many of the criteria are reasonable for developing countries seeking to boost local drug manufacturing, the continued favouring of New GPC, which became prom-inent 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, specialised 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.

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