Guyanese were left wanting with millions lost in drugs, medical supplies under APNU+AFC – Audit finds

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In just three years, from 2015 to 2018, at least $950 million was lost on expired drugs and medical supplies locally, leaving many Guyanese without much-needed health supplies.

This is according to a performance audit on the management of drugs and medical supplies at the Ministry of Public Health and regional health facilities, conducted by the Audit Office of Guyana.

This audit was among several reports tabled in the National Assembly on Monday.

It was compiled by Auditor General Deodat Sharma, who lamented numerous issues in the supply and management of these drugs and medical supplies.

“Millions were wasted from spoilt and damaged supplies due to poor storage, which left Guyanese without needed supplies,” the audit stated.

It was explained that both the ministry and health facilities engaged in poor storage practices that led to the deterioration of the supplies. It was found that some $950 million was lost on expired drugs and medical supplies during the period.

Noteworthy, however, is that the value of the loss from regional health facilities is unknown given the absence of cost information.

Aside from the losses, Auditor General lamented that essential items were out of stock for long periods and suppliers did not deliver items amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

That meant people could not readily access much-needed supplies.

Auditor General, Deodat Sharma

Even when items were collected, however, it was found that supplies were damaged in private warehouses because there were no agreements specifying storage conditions. Those stored in public spaces were also damaged due to haphazard storage and in some instances, lack of waterproofing.

Beyond the wastage of supplies, there were several administrative concerns raised. In the first instance, it was found that contracts for the procurement of drugs and supplies were poor. This resulted in the late delivery of supplies.

In fact, over the three-year period, the ministry entered into 318 contracts valued at $12.1 billion with national and international suppliers. Contracts, the AG said, did not include provisions to prevent delays by contractors nor measures to recover any overpayments.

As such, it was recommended that future contracts include contractual terms and conditions to protect the ministry from delinquent suppliers.

Some contracts were also awarded after items were delivered, based on contracts reviewed, suppliers’ invoices, and delivery notes. As such, the Audit Office could not determine whether the ministry received the best price for each item.

Then, the audit flagged poor inventory management.

For context, it is important to note that the Health Ministry’s Materials Management Unit (MMU) is responsible for the distribution of drugs and medical supplies to 356 health facilities in all 10 regions.

During the course of the audit, 50 of those facilities were visited. And the audit detailed worrying concerns.

“We found no proper inventory management system to account for items procured and distributed to each region.

“While the Ministry accounted for the items in the Warehouse Management System, there was no segregation to show each region’s stock from that of the Ministry.

“As a result, we could not differentiate each region’s drugs from that of the Ministry,” it stated.

Poor inventory management resulted in regions receiving excess supplies. This contributed to the wastage of supplies. Because of this, the audit recommended that proper accounting records be kept and reconciled for all drugs and medical supplies procured and distributed.

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