Silence continues from both the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) and the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPHC) Board, three months after their respective investigations began into the over-$605M emergency purchase of drugs fast-tracked by Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence.
The purchase violated the procurement law of the country and is seen as posing a challenge in particular to the recently established PPC which is supposed to oversee the procurement process and to address breaches. The transaction was drawn to the public’s notice on March 8 this year.
Stabroek News has tried to contact both GPHC Board Chairman Kesaundra Alves and Chairman of the PPC, Carol Corbin over the past week to no avail. Calls to Alves’ mobile phone revealed that it has been turned off while those to Corbin have not been returned.
The PPC’s investigation is expected to provide details on the four emergency contracts and is to outline how ANSA McAL was awarded the bulk of the over $605m purchases without the knowledge of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB). New GPC, the Eccles, East Bank Demerara-based Health 2000 and Canadian entity Chirosyn Discovery were the other suppliers in the emergency process.
The GPHC Board has not said much on its investigations except for Alves stating last month that she will address the matter when the investigation was completed.
Questions have been raised about what is taking the PPC so long when all of the documentary evidence is available for an investigation of the transaction. The length of time taken is also puzzling as the PPC commissioners function on a full-time basis. Lawrence’s admitted role in the process could put her in hot water.
Lawrence’s acknowledgement that she “fast-tracked” the purchase from Trinidad conglomerate ANSA McAl along with three smaller acquisitions, prompted public consternation and calls for an inquiry into the matter.
Lawrence herself asked for the board of the GPHC to investigate the circumstances behind the purchase. Lawrence, in her defence, has said that while she “fast-tracked” the purchases because of the emergency needs of the GPHC, she didn’t have anything to do with the actual procurement.
Lawrence has said that for the first two months of this year, a total of $1,304,439,390 was spent on drugs for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. The total is nearly double what was spent for the whole of last year.
She noted that of the sum spent on drugs in 2016, $631 million, equivalent to over 90%, was spent for “emergency pharmaceuticals.”
Also stated was that tenders for the procurement of both pharmaceuticals and medical supplies were invited, except in the instance of the emergency supplies, for which restrictive tendering was used.
Lawrence also told the National Assembly, in response to questions posed by the opposition, that $1,635,070,822 was spent in 2016 for the procurement of drugs. The minister noted in her written response that this sum represented 95.1% of the budgeted allocation for the year.
She further explained that $395,251,668 in supplies were not delivered within the time stipulated by the contracts. Of the three identified suppliers who failed to deliver on time, the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Agency accounted for more than 90% of this sum.
New GPC failed to supply $381,193,319 in products, while ANSA McAl Trading Ltd failed to supply $12,488,630 and Global Healthcare Supplies Inc., $2,569,719.
She has said that all the contracts were publicly advertised and awarded by the NPTAB.