Opposition PPP/C Member of Parliament Juan Edghill is accusing the APNU+AFC government of massive mismanagement in the procurement of drugs and medical supplies totaling over $4 billion.
“It is clear that while we were talking about a $605 million emergency purchase, we have now discovered that there is massive mismanagement, massive noncompliance with procurement regulations, there is massive interference with the procurement laws, totaling in excess of $4 billion dollars,” Edghill, who had submitted a series of questions for written response on the issue, told reporters at a press briefing at the Public Buildings on Monday.
This sum includes monies spent by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), the Ministry of Public Health and regional health authorities.
Edghill had asked in each case to be provided with information about the amount spent on drugs and medical supplies; the name of each supplier; the value of each contract; and date of each award as well as the names of suppliers who failed to deliver within the stipulated time frame and who may have delivered inferior or substandard drugs or medical supplies.
He accused both Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence and Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan of not answering several question and of attempting to hide information in the answers they did provide.
“Lots of questions were not answered and even when answers were provided, the state of affairs as it relate to procurement was not properly made… There is reference to attachments which do not exist and attached reports from IFMAS (Integrated Financial Management and Accounting System) which provide no information in relation to questions asked,” Edghill lamented.
He noted that he asked for the name of each supplier as well as the date awards were given and for what amount, yet he had not received this information. Rather, Minister Lawrence told the House that “no awards were made to suppliers since July, 2016 because of delays in the bid process”
Edghill argued that in the absence of awards, all monies spent were expended without the use of a proper procurement process.
In the case of GPHC, he noted that more than $2 billion appears to have been spent outside of the procurement system.
Lawrence, in her response, said $681,205,510 had been spent on drugs and $55,622,563 on medical supplies in 2016 at GPHC, while $1,304,439,390 was spent on drugs and $761,060,748 on medical supplies in the first two months of 2017.
Asked to provide the names of each supplier and details of the awards, the minister named seven drug suppliers and nine suppliers of medical supplies. She, however, only provided details of contracts totaling $279,041,882. This is a fraction of the $2,802,328,211 expended over the period.
This discrepancy has led to Edghill accusing government of raping the treasury.
“The public purse was raped; monies paid, God knows to whom, with no proper process. At GPHC alone, $2.5 billion was procured without any tender board award. They provide award information for $277 million and can’t provide for the rest, so no award was granted,” he stressed.
No public advertising
He then directed his attention to the answer provided by Bulkan on the procurement process used by the regional authorities.
He noted that while Bulkan reported the regions as having spent a large percentage of their budgeted funds, with the exception of Region 10, the regions did not publicly advertise for the supply of drugs and medical supplies since they were purchased on an emergency basis or as needs arose.
Region 10 reported that it publicly advertised in the Guyana Chronicle and Stabroek News in February, 2016.
Edghill then took aim at Bulkan’s response that the regions reported receiving the drugs equal to the sums paid. A total of $1,091,023,393 was spent by the ten regions on drugs and medical supplies in 2016. “We have heard at the level of the Public Accounts Committee and in the House that there are drugs shortages, yet the Minister of communities expended most of his budget and says no shortage was reported from the regions,” Edghill stated.
He added that the opposition continues to question “bold, brazen and barefaced lies” the government has been peddling in relation to substandard and expired drugs being delivered, especially since the minister was unable to provide information as to when this occurred.
He explained that a list of received items attached to the minister’s response shows only drugs received and not those rejected. “These were not drugs that were refused, these were drugs that were received. These are not inferior drugs that were supplied these were what was received,” Edghill stressed.