By Devina Samaroo
Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence Wednesday afternoon said her staff was busy with budget preparations and therefore she was unable to answer questions regarding the controversial $367M drug contract awarded to a company called HDM Labs Inc.
Opposition Member, Dr Frank Anthony had submitted to the National Assembly several questions for written replies about the contract.
Minister Lawrence asked for her response to be deferred under Standing Order 22 (9) as her employees are working on the 2019 Budget and so they were too busy to assist her in providing a response.
The Standing Order states: “At the request of a Minister and with the approval of the Assembly, the answer to a Question on the Order Paper may be deferred, once only, for a period of twelve (12) clear days.”
The Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira protested the request, noting that the National Assembly is going into recess, and therefore, a response will not be available until after two months.
She further contended that the Public Health Minister had enough time to answer the question since it was submitted more than 21 days ago.
Nonetheless, the request was put to a vote where 29 voted against and 32 supported the request.
The questions which the minister was asked to answer are:
(i) How many companies were invited to tender for this contract to supply pharmaceuticals for the Ministry?
(ii) What were the criteria used for the selection of this company for a restricted bidding process?
(iii) On what basis were suppliers of pharmaceuticals to the Ministry such as, Ansa McCal, International Pharmaceuticals Agency and International Healthcare disqualified?
(iv) Why was a company that usually supplies laboratory equipment listed in the restrictive tender to supply pharmaceuticals?
(v) What were the items procured under the contract with HDM Labs Inc., the quantity for each item and the unit cost for each item?
(vi) Has HDM Labs Inc. provided all the procured items? If so, when?
(vii) Does HDM Labs Inc. have the Manufacturer’s Authorization in the territory of Guyana for the items listed in the contract? Have these authorizations been produced for verification?
(viii) Does HDM Labs Inc., have their Goods certified by WHO, or the US Food and Drug Administration, and the Guyana Food and Drug Administration?
(ix) Can the Minister of Public Health inform the National Assembly on the experience and technical capacity of the HDM Labs Inc.?
(x) Is the Minister satisfied that the Ministry of Public Health has received value for money expended on this contract?
In April 2017, six companies responded to a request for the supply of emergency pharmaceuticals for Regional and Clinic Services. These companies were: Ansa McAl Limited, Caribbean Medical Supplies, Global Healthcare Supplies, International Pharmaceutical Agency, HDM Labs Inc. and Meditron Inc.
However, the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) recommended that no award be made as all bidders failed to meet the evaluation criteria at the preliminary stage.
Thereafter, however, HDM Labs Inc. was awarded the multimillion-dollar contract for the drug supply.
The Ministry of Public Health, in response to media reports, had explained that it had subsequently sought permission from NPTAB for Restrictive Tendering. This was allowed and HDM Labs Inc. was eventually given the contract.
Concerns were raised why other reputable firms with experience in the field were disqualified during the Restrictive Tendering process.
Reports are that the Ministry wrote HDM Labs Inc. requesting that the company submit quotations for the supply and delivery of the drugs and on that same day, the Ministry also wrote NPTAB requesting permission to sole-source the drugs after other companies were “disqualified”.
But the Ministry had explained that during the Restrictive Tendering process, all six of the companies were asked, by letter, to resubmit bids but only HDM Labs Inc. responded.