Anti-malaria drugs tender…$228M bid variance a “public scandal” – APNU
- Party demands full investigation
As questions continue to pour in over government’s insistence to purchase drugs using highly controversial methods, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has expressed alarm at this and believes that it is time for a full investigation.
APNU Parliamentarian Joseph Harmon also slammed the behaviour of the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (New GPC), the company that is at the centre of the controversial drug purchases.
Literally billions of dollars have been paid over to New GPC over the past decade for the supply of drugs and other medical supplies.
The annual Auditor General’s reports in recent years have criticized the purchases which it said was not done in a transparent manner. But government had come out in defence of its method of using pre-qualification as the system for procurement.
On Tuesday, bids were opened for the supply of anti-malaria drugs and two tenders came in.
International Pharmaceutical Agency (IPA) submitted a proposal for $32,730,400 while New GPC’s bid was for $261,568,442. It meant that New GPC’s price was $228,838,042 more than IPA’s.
New GPC’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, had slammed the privately-owned Stabroek News for the report, claiming his company was deliberately under attack.
However, Harmon yesterday said that the $228M difference in the bid prices between the two companies is a “public scandal” that should spur government into immediate action.
Pattern of behaviour
“For Mr. Ramroop to insinuate that it is no one’s business to ask questions when it is the people’s money we are talking about, is slap in the face of Guyanese…it is part of the overall pattern of behaviour of this company which appears to have a suspiciously close arrangement with government.”
According to Harmon, the disparity in the bid prices certainly deserves answers.
“What I rather suspect is that the newspapers…Kaieteur News and Stabroek News…were just trying to determine whether the bidding price was correct. I have not seen Mr. Ramroop address the issue of the price, which is the whole point. That is shocking.”
According to Harmon, an attorney-at-law, there is also a widespread belief that contractors have insiders’ knowledge, as it is evident that the prices submitted on tenders are very close to the budget of the various government agencies.
“These are serious issues involving the people’s monies. All the more reasons for a Procurement Commission to be established as soon as possible. It seems as if there are a few chosen ones who are bent on enriching themselves at the expense of Guyana.”
Harmon called on President Donald Ramotar to immediately consider an independent review of drugs purchases.
On Wednesday, Ramroop, a close friend of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, blasted a Stabroek News reporter for calling him after 18:00hrs on Tuesday.
“The reporter, incredibly, demanded information on why the company’s bid was so much higher than IPA’s,” Ramroop said in a statement Wednesday.
Ramroop accused Stabroek News of “seeking to malign his company. He described the article that reported on the high bid as a “malicious” one.
Mr. Ramroop is also the head of Guyana Times, a newspaper he manages and TVG Channel 28, a television station he acquired from Anthony Vieira.
The New GPC, through its parent company, Queens Atlantic Investments Inc (QAII), in responding Wednesday to the report in the Stabroek News, also said that the contact by the reporter was unusual.
Stabroek News, in its report of the bids’ opening, said that it contacted Ramroop, for an explanation about the difference in the New GPC’s bid price.
According to the newspaper, Ramroop first said that the “person responsible for preparation of tender documents was not available and that Stabroek News should call today during working hours. A few minutes later, Ramroop called the newspaper and declined to respond to the question and instead levelled accusations against the reporter in a hostile manner.”
Ramroop, Stabroek News said, accused the reporter and by extension the newspaper of “teaming up” against him, and of working for IPA and “looking for a scandal story.”
Stabroek News’ Editor-in-Chief, Anand Persaud, responding to Ramroop, is quoted as saying that Dr. Ramroop’s allegations were outrageous and a clear attempt to evade answering important questions about procurement.
The New GPC, in the statement, claimed that the tender was advertised for 10 anti-malarial products and that the New GPC submitted its bid within the designated time frame.
“The tender was specific, requesting a specific type and quantity of items. The company was guided by the specificity of products requested and outlined in the bid document.”
Ramroop claimed that Stabroek News is on a “mission to destabilize his company” as it is not the first time such issues have surfaced.
He refused to admit that his bid had an unusually large variance against the other bid.
In recent years, the procurement of drugs by government has come under intense scrutiny with the New GPC at the center of criticism.
There have been questions about the costs of the drugs and whether Guyana was getting value for its dollars.