In 2016, Region Three only spent $86 million of $339.6 million allocated for drugs and medical services, bringing into question whether the region was ever really in need of the money in the first place.
At a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing on Monday, parliamentarians heard that $339.649 million was budgeted for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies for the region, with the first warrant being issued on July 22nd, 2016 for $221.088 million. $86.181 million of that amount was expended.
The Region Three Regional Health Officer (RHO) Ravendra Dudhnath told the committee that there was a shortage of drugs in the region at some point, but stated that it was only because of delivery issues.
“…Is it that this House, this National Assembly is approving monies to the region to help and it is not necessary?” MP Pauline Sukhai questioned, while also speculating whether the region was “inflating the health budget.”
The Auditor General’s 2016 report stated that although the drugs and supplies were received, the cost was not stated on the documentation that came with the deliveries, making it difficult to determine whether the full value was received for the money warranted.
When the regional administration appeared before the PAC on Mon-day, information regarding the reconciliation of the amounts could still not be provided. Regional Executive Officer (REO) Denis Jaikaran related that he had requested the information from the RHO but was still awaiting it.
Asked by PAC member Juan Edghill how then the region will account for the balance, Jaikaran said that he believes it would have been returned to the Consolidated Fund.
Meanwhile, Dudhnath said that he received the information from the Public Health Ministry’s Materials Management Unit (MMU) just last week, but could not say why he had failed to relay the documents to the REO, ahead of the region’s appearance before the PAC.
Edghill asked Dudhnath to state how much the region received in terms of value for money, but Dudhnath related that they had not gotten the relevant data from the MMU to calculate such, including the quantity and cost of the drugs.
Jaikaran stated that prior to 2016, there had been no system in place to reconcile the region’s accounts, but he noted that it is being put in place based on recommendations.
The hearing also saw the disclosure that two years on, the region is still in possession of more than $5 million in expired drugs.
According to the AG’s report, a physical verification exercise at the West Demerara Regional Hospital and seven health centres showed 213 items of expired drugs valued at $5.4 million. The report stated that there was no evidence that the region took action to have them destroyed by the competent authority.
The RHO told the committee that those drugs were still on hand, and that the region is still awaiting the Food and Drugs Department to dispose of them.
He assured, however, that the drugs are stored separately from the drugs to be dispensed, and that the records are updated monthly to reflect newly expired drugs.
Jaikaran said that the issue of the drug bond being congested and disorganised has been addressed with the rearrangement of the stores.
Additionally, plans to fix a leaky roof within the bond will reportedly be underway shortly, as the region moves to tender within two weeks for the repairs.