Region Six faces PAC scrutiny over emergency medical supply purchases

The National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday found a questionable pattern of spending by the Region Six administration in 2016, when there was reportedly a record of 14 emergency purchases of gloves within a five-month period.

It was reported that there were seven purchases in April, two in May, three in July, two in August, all amounting to a total of $3.758 million, from the Inter-national Pharmaceutical Agency (IPA).

The Regional Executive Officer (REO) related that emergency purchases are made when they receive a nil document from the Public Health Ministry’s Materials Management Unit (MMU), indicating that the items cannot be supplied. The region was asked to supply a copy of that document to justify the purchases.

PPP/C Member of Parliament (MP) Pauline Sukhai, filling in for Chairman Irfaan Ali for a period yesterday, questioned why there was a need for an emergency purchase so soon after the items were procured.

Fellow PPP/C MP Juan Edghill noted that in comparison, the quantity of gloves bought from the MMU were valued at $250,000 and opined that emergency purchases should not exceed the original procurement.

Edghill, stating that he wanted to see whether there was a pattern in the spending, enquired about an emergency purchase of over $7 million in gauze and other items, after $2.764 million in gauze was sourced from the MMU.

“The MMU, according to the Director of Health Services, provided $2.764 million worth of gauze and the region purchased $7.5 million in emergency supplies. The MMU is supposed to be the major supplier. The emergency supplies come when you fall short. But you can’t buy three times the amount from a supplier outside the MMU and come to PAC and tell us it’s emergency purchase. And then the process to acquire is not competitive, it’s selective,” Edghill stated.

The MP further enquired from the officer what led him to go to the Tender Board within the same month to purchase items from the same supplier. The question was redirected to the Regional Executive Officer (REO) Kim Williams-Stephen, who is the Chairman of the Regional Tender Board, but the REO was unable to respond at the time.

Under questioning by Ali, she stated that she would need to go through the records before making a pronouncement on whether or not a breach had occurred.

Edghill requested the prices paid to suppliers for drugs as compared to the MMU, that the region provides information on how it determines who it is buying from in the region when emergencies arise, evidence that there was a nil return by the MMU before the emergency purchases were made and the prices and quantities of the items purchased.

Sukhai also requested a comparison of prior year purchases based on quantity to determine whether there was a purchasing standard.

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