Public accounts body welcomes probe of $605m drug purchase – Ali

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Irfaan Ali says that the parliamentary body is looking forward to the completion of a report by the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) on the recent controversial purchase of $605m worth of drugs for the GPHC.

“We have noted that the PPC has taken the matter on board and they are investigating and have made a public expression for information from persons who want to contribute to submit to the inquiry,” Ali told Stabroek News yesterday.

“We are looking forward for the outcome of the report and to let that inform the process forward,” he added.

The PPC last week invited members of the public who had information pertaining to procurement matters at the GPHC and Ministry of Health to submit written statements to assist in the probe. 

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

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

The PPC 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 Consti-tution, has commenced an investigation.

“In this regard, the Public Procurement Com-mission 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.

Ali said that equally important was the Auditor General’s Report which will include purchases at the state medical facility which can in turn help shape policies for the improvement of the sector.

“The auditor general also has a role to audit these agencies. The GPHC and the Minister of Health both fall under the rubric of the Auditor General. What is also important for us is that we have seen a lot reports on the regional system, in terms of management of health centres and pharmaceuticals. We have seen certain instances where the minister herself have made certain comments and these are some of the things the AG will be looking at.  The public is saying there are shortages and the management are saying there are none .So there must be something going on that has to be looked at.”

“So we are hoping the Auditor General looks at these things and include them in the report. The broader issue has to do with management and the system itself. You are seeing reports where contracts were awarded and the full amounts were not delivered and so on. These things I am sure would be of interest for the Auditor General. ..The 2017 report would be very important in understanding these issues fully,” he added.

PPP/C MPs have also tabled questions to Parlia-ment on the transaction.

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