While there are still no tablets being stored at the Sussex Street bond, the facility is being used to store medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment.
Minister of Public Health George Norton told reporters that the controversial bond was never meant to store tablets alone.
“It has medications including those manufactured by New GPC, Chloroform, injections and the famous condoms and lubricants, as well as expensive equipment which has been donated to the government,” Norton said.
He also noted that the Public Health Ministry will in 2017 commence construction a state-of-the-art drug bond in Kingston which will facilitate cold storage.
“This will reduce the expenditure on rental of a facility for such,” Norton said. He did not state whether this building would be used to replace the bond at Sussex Street or mention the status of the rental agreement between Larry Singh and the government.
The deal with businessman Larry Singh to rent the Sussex Street building for use as a bond was said to have been initiated by the APNU+AFC government because extra storage capacity for drugs was required. This was despite that fact that a government bond exists at Diamond on the East Bank Demerara, where more pharmaceuticals could have been stored.
Singh had never managed a bond storage operation and critics said the deal appeared to be a sweetheart arrangement to give business to a PNCR supporter. There have been many questions as to how Singh was chosen, given the fact that there was no public tendering for the bond facility that government is renting at a monthly fee of $12.5 million.
A Cabinet subcommittee was convened in September this year and it agreed that the bond deal was “undoubtedly undesirable,” and a variety of options should be considered including the shortening of the period of the lease.
The matter came up in Parliament during the budget debates, and subsequently prompted a team comprising of members of both sides of the House and Parliament staff to visit the location, after opposition member Anil Nandlall had told the House that “not a tablet is being stored” there. Norton asked Nandlall to withdraw the statement as it was not true. The visit to the bond proved that no tablets were being stored in the building.
The Speaker’s review of the exchanges in Parliament on this matter is still pending.