APNU+AFC is presently spending more than $15M per month to store a used, outdated model CT scanner which they over-valued at about $12M. A good, recent model used CT scanner anywhere in America costs between $6M and $15M today. The scanner they are storing is an old model and no one knows if it is usable. APNU+AFC, through its Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence, claims they will use this scanner at the Bartica Hospital, but that there is a need to construct a CT Scanner Room at the Bartica Hospital, which they have not gotten around to do. Note, the GPHC does not have one, nor is there one at the New Amsterdam, West Demerara or Linden Hospitals. They have been storing this scanner for almost 25 months now at a monthly cost which exceeds their own valuation of the CT scanner. In this time, they could have purchased 25 newer and more updated scanners. In fact, the cost of the building they are renting to store this equipment now stands at more than $315M and will be about $400M by the end of 2018. For this amount, they could have built a new, modern wing for the Bartica Hospital, complete with a CT Scanner Room and a newer, more updated CT scanner. Incidentally, is there a reliable x-ray machine at Bartica Hospital? This is not just outrageous, it is criminal and it is one of the most pellucid examples of misconduct in office.
Such behaviour might help to explain why the economy has been on a downward spiral since May 2015. If you cannot figure out how to economically, sensibly, store a piece of medical equipment, then how can you manage a complex thing such as the economy? Not only has the economy been on a downward spiral since May 2015, APNU+AFC and its clueless Finance Minister have not been able to even project GDP growth. They projected a growth of 3.8% for 2018 and already they have revised that downwards to 3.4%. Storing a piece of equipment which APNU+AFC spuriously overvalues at $12M, but which many persons believe is useless, in a building costing you about $15M per month is a clue why they have been so ineffective and reckless in managing the economy.
In the medical warehouse transaction, the government admitted paying more than $264M between July 2016 and March 2018 for rental of the house. Actually, up to the end of July 2018, the rental sum is $315M. This is $12.5M per month in rental charges for a house in Sussex Street. No other house in this neighbourhood fetches such a hefty rental charge. Indeed, it would be difficult to find another house in all of Guyana that rents for this amount. Bear in mind, in addition to the rental charges, the government also has to pay the 14% VAT on behalf of the owner of the building. That means that the government used the taxpayers’ money to steer another $44M on behalf of the owner, bringing the payments up to $360M. In addition, the government pays for the cost of air-conditioning and for security. By the end of 2018, the total cost would exceed $400M. The bottom line is that in a neighbourhood where rental of a house for about $100,000 a month is on the high side, this government is paying more than $15M for rent, utilities and security each month, about 150 times more than is normal and reasonable. If this is not misconduct in office, then what is?
It is apposite to recall that the medical warehouse was rented because the then Minister, George Norton, claimed there was an emergency need for space to store medicines. The Prime Minister had justified the need for a medical warehouse in Georgetown on the basis that the Government’s modern and internationally certified medical warehouse at Diamond is too far from the city. The justification for renting the facility was a false premise and a total, absolute lie. There was never such an emergency need. There was no advertisement and tender in accordance with procurement laws. The government paid the owner six months’ rent in advance. The owner then used two months rental charges to fully pay off for the building. Just in case anyone wants to know who the owner of this building is, it is enough to identify the person as a supporter and donor of APNU+AFC. This person has no experience in storing medicines and the building could never be certified as suitable for storing medicines. One can see why this transaction is so smelly.
The new Minister of Public Health in 2016, Ms. Volda Lawrence, had promised to terminate the contract. She now insists that the contract will end at the end of 2018. How many of us believe that the contract will indeed end in December 2018? Would the CT Scanner Room at Bartica be ready by then? In the meanwhile, we will spend another more than $90M until the end of the year storing an old, outdated piece of equipment in this building and we have no idea if it will work. The chances that the Bartica Hospital will not even be ready to receive it is even greater. What will happen then?
Finally, if anything exposes the uselessness of the Public Procurement Commission, it is transactions like this one, and there are many more that we have become too used to. When we see these transactions, we wonder if the Public Procurement Commission is worth the cost of its operation which the taxpayers are burdened with. We must wonder too where in heaven’s name is SOCU and SARA. Clearly, these have become instruments for harassment of political opponents.
Dr. Leslie Ramsammy