PPC invites submissions as it begins drug procurement probe

As the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) begins its investigation into the drug procurement process at the Georgetown Public Hospital, it is inviting members of the public who have information to submit written statements by April 12.

“The Public Procurement Commission is committed to a completely transparent and objective investigation, and invites members of the public who may have pertinent information to make written submissions to the Chairman, Public Procurement Commission at Parliament Office, Parliament Buildings by 12th April 2017,” PPC Chairman Carol Corbin said in a statement yesterday.

Corbin had told Stabroek News that she would be reviewing Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence’s over-$605 million emergency purchase of drugs for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), in the wake of concerns that procurement procedures were breached.

Lawrence has come under fire for “fast-tracking” the $605 million drug purchase from ANSA McAL and others without the knowledge of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) and without compliance with procurement rules.

It is for this reason that the opposition PPP/C says it wants “full disclosure” pertaining to the purchase and has moved to have questions answered on the matter in the National Assembly.

Among the questions asked of Lawrence was what was the total sum expended for drugs and medical supplies for the Ministry of Public Health and specifically the GPHC, between January 1, 2016 and February 28, 2017 and what percentage of the 2016 budgetary allocations for drugs and medical supplies was expended by December 31, 2016.

The party wants to know if any monies were unspent and returned to the Consolidated Fund and how much was returned. It also questions the reasons for the underperformance in the procurement of drugs and medical supplies for the public health system.

“Could the Hon Minister provide the following information to the National Assembly: the name of each supplier, the value of each contract and date of award, the name of the supplier/s which failed to deliver within the stipulated contractual period and by what amount, the name of the supplier which delivered inferior/substandard drugs and medical supplies?” it asks.

“Could the Hon Minister state in each case of procurement whether these tenders were publicly advertised? If so, when and where? And, if any of these awardees were pre-qualified? And, in each case of the above, which body of the Ministry of Public Health was responsible for evaluating and recommending the award of these contracts?”

Additionally, Lawrence is probed about the contracted suppliers which delivered drugs and medical supplies that were expired, were close to expiry date, and/or, of an inferior quality, between January 1, 2016 and February 28, 2017.

She is also requested to provide the specific drug, and, or medical supply, and the dollar value in each case which was procured and found to be expired, and or, of inferior quality.

In her defence of the $605 million she “fast tracked” to purchase the emergency medical supplies, Lawrence had said that her decision was based on the fact that many suppliers did not meet their contractual obligations.

The Public Procurement Commission pointed out that it has noted the recent statements in the media about procurement of pharmaceuticals for the public health sector and, in keeping with its functions as detailed in Article 212(AA). (1) of the Constitution, has commenced an investigation into the procurement of pharmaceutical and other medical supplies, specifically by the GPHC.

“In this regard, the Public Procurement Commission is in the process of collecting and reviewing relevant information from various stakeholders within the national procurement system and will conduct interviews and examine documentation as deemed necessary,” the statement said.

And since the subject of this investigation is of national interest and has resulted in significant public concern, according to the PPC, it will submit its findings to the National Assembly.

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