Health Minister not opposed to probe into $605M drug procurement

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The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation’s (GPHC) Board is conducting an investigation into what can be considered ‘sole-sourcing’ of a Trinidad –based company, Ansa McAL to supply drugs to the hospital, to decipher whether it was done in compliance with all regulations and standards. This is according to Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence.

Lawrence came in for much criticism after she influenced the decision of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), for ANSA McAL to supply drugs and pharmaceuticals to the tune of some G$605M.

In an article in today’s edition (March 20, 2017) of the Stabroek News, Former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran issued a call for the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) to launch an investigation into the purchase.

In response, the Minister who appeared on a live radio interview on 94.1 today (Monday, March 20, 2017), said she has already initiated an investigation at the level of the GPHC’s Board. However, she said she is not opposed to the Public Procurement Commission also becoming involved in that probe.

“I don’t have a problem of the PPC being involved in the investigation or anything. I welcome that because when the APNU+AFC Government came into Office, we came in, and we said that we will raise the standards, we said that we will be above board, and I have absolutely no problem with scrutiny but I just want the Guyanese people to know that ‘yes I am responsible for their health’” she said.

The Minister clarified that the company was chosen from among four companies, including New GPC, Health 2000 and Chirosyn Discovery from which these emergency supplies were procured.

As was stated in a press release from the Ministry on Saturday, March 11, 2017, the Minister said other companies were not a part of this process due to ongoing investigations into their late/or non-delivery of critical drugs during 2016, which they were contracted to procure for GPHC. Some of these pharmaceuticals were overdue by as much as six (6) months, which exacerbated the drugs shortage at the hospital.

Asked whether there is a limit to the sum of monies that can be spent on such a procurement, the Minister emphasised that it was an emergency and therefore, there was little that could have been done.

Speaking to the overall shortage of drugs, which led to this process, Lawrence reiterated that the drug shortage was a ploy manufactured by some unprincipled importers.

She pointed to the widespread practice among some suppliers, to indicate their inability to supply the items for which they received payment when the delivery date is nearing.

Others, she said provided a few of the items then refuse to provide the remainder. The Ministry said these excuses are made even though the items are available on the local market at very steep prices from the same suppliers and their pharmaceutical clients. This has caused the ministry to purchase drugs at high prices.

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