New GPC has no competition in drug supply

Sole drug supply pre-qualifier the New GPC does not have to compete with any international development partners for the procurement of drugs for Guyana’s health sector as claimed by one of its sister operations.

The international agencies, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are donors, funders or in the case of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), a facilitator for the procurement of drugs for this country at concessionary rates as for developing countries. They do not ever engage in competitive bidding.

“No, those organizations don’t bid for drug supplies… they are international organizations. So, no, no. no. But I know with PAHO there is an arrangement where they assist in us getting certain things because we can’t compete with international market prices,” Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health Leslie Cadogan told Stabroek News on Thursday.

Cadogan explained that he was pressed for time and was rushing and delegated a member of the ministry to explain the process in detail as it pertains to obtaining medicines from PAHO.

Two Wednesdays ago, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon announced that only the New GPC was pre-qualified to supply drugs for the health sector and he said that it was because the company outscored competitors not only in safety requirements but also in local investment.

Following his announcement, Trinidad firm ANSA McAL on the 25th of July, 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.

On the 26th of July, President Donald Ramotar stressed that the naming of the New GPC as the sole pre-qualifier to supply drugs to the health sector was based on set criteria but added that aggrieved companies should appeal.

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 (NPTAB). Western Scientific Company, another firm out of Trinidad and Tobago, also sought to pre-qualify to supply and deliver pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and other consumables. The remaining companies, which are all Guyana-based, were Telcom Solutions (Guyana) Inc, Meditron Scientific Sales, International Pharmaceu-tical 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 for billion-dollar contracts for drug supplies because of the close relationship between the head of the company and senior government officials. The 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.

Since the announcement that the New GPC was identified as the sole pre-qualifier, the Guyana Times, which shares the same owner as the New GPC, has been consistently reporting that New GPC would have to compete with the international organizations.

“Despite being cleared as the sole pre-qualified company to supply medical drugs to the Guyana Government, New GPC INC would still have to compete with a number of top international agencies that gained automatic qualification,” it has stated in one of the many reports, citing PAHO, UNICEF, the WHO and the UNDP.

Stabroek News visited the Ministry of Heath, the NPTAB, and local offices of the international agencies listed while speaking with officials of others to ascertain the claims.

Each official or representative contacted expressed surprise that they were being asked about procuring drugs, given that their organization’s role not only in Guyana but globally was publicly known. The organizations explained that they did not want to be tossed into the feud and some persons spoke on condition of anonymity.

“To say that WHO, UNDP or UNICEF are partakers of competitive bidding for medical drugs here or anything else for that matter is a serious allegation not only to us but the United Nations, who we fall under. Why would anyone want to bring us in this? It is very serious,” one official said.

A UNICEF official told this newspaper that bidding for drugs does not fall under the mandate of that organization and was shocked when asked if it would be participating in tendering for the supply of drugs here. “No we don’t get involved in that. That would be something out of the mandate of UNICEF,” official of UNICEF Frank Robinson told Stabroek News.

“My answer to that would be no. We are in partnership with government and Ministry of Health in terms of funding or paying if required, whatever drugs are needed,” another senior official, who requested anonymity stated.

The NPTAB would not comment on whether that body has ever seen documents from any of the organizations bidding to supply drugs but instead pointed this newspaper’s queries to the Ministry of Health, which is the drug procuring entity.

There Cadogan pointed out that that the organisations were not tenderers but that, in keeping with international agreements, PAHO acts as the ministry’s facilitator in garnering drugs as allowed for developing countries.

The Permanent Secretary gave a directive that a staff member explain in detail how this process is done.

PAHO’s website states that it “provides technical cooperation and mobilizes partnerships to improve health and quality of life in the countries of the Americas. PAHO is the specialized health agency of the Inter-American System and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO). Together with WHO, PAHO is a member of the United Nations system.”

Stabroek News was told that whenever vaccines were needed, the local PAHO office would be notified of the reason and quantity as only PAHO could supply vaccines here. The Georgetown office would then send same to PAHO’s head office in Washington and there, through negotiations the best price for the medicines for developing countries would be had. Washington would then send the information to its local office, which would forward it to the Ministry of Health.

“Vaccines is a different process, okay? We can only get vaccines from PAHO… but whenever we need reagents or glassware we would send through the procurement department, who would prepare and send to PS and he would send back. They would then forward this to PAHO local office, who would then send to Washington. “Washington negotiates for the cheapest price for us… they would send a price estimate to us and if it’s more than $15M, we would send to NPTAB,” the Health Ministry employee explained.

“NPTAB, because it’s more than $15M, would send to Cabinet back to NPTAB and then to our accounts department… we prepare a bank draft in US dollars, which we send to PAHO local office and they send back to Washington,” she said.

This newspaper understands that the process was in keeping with WHO international public health agreements and that it is not a for profit process.



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