Something has been exposed

October 21, 2012 | By | Filed Under Features / Columnists, My Column 

 

This past week was exciting to the point that I saw people hurrying home, keen to avoid being outside their homes after dark. It had been some time since people had to contend with gunmen going into public places and killing people in broad daylight. Those things happened when Buxton was said to be the haven for gunmen attracted by the group that had broken out of the Camp Street jail.
And to make the situation even more chaotic was the death of a lawyer who represented Ricardo Rodrigues whenever the police displayed an interest in Rodrigues. People believed that the same people who killed Rodrigues ran the lawyer, Vic Puran, off the road and that belief still holds among many people.
People are once more talking about criminals and gunmen, but there is another group who just manage to stay under the radar. These are the white collar criminals who are not usually prosecuted in Guyana. These criminals are the ones who filch from the public treasury or from places that are open to fraudulent practices, such as banks and insurance companies.
Then there are those who try to fleece the government by submitting inflated bids. And this can happen, because there is no procurement commission to review some of the prices submitted by the bidder. One case is currently engaging the attention of the media and it involves the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation.
The government advertised for anti-malaria drugs, and of course, a bidder has the right to set his prices. In this case the prices submitted by this company appeared to be excessively high. Indeed the bidder may be quoting the prices from his supplier. It is here that the National Procurement Commission would have been involved.
In these days when anything could be found on the internet, it would not be difficult to check the prices. I did and I found that the drugs are remarkably cheap if they are to be had from certain suppliers. I checked the prices for drugs like artemeter, artesunate, chloroquine, mefloquine, primaquine and some others.
It is not my intention to influence the tender board, because I am sure that the people evaluating the bids know what they have to do. Most of the drugs cost between 10 US cents and one US cent each. I did the Maths and I made my conclusion. For the record, the prices could be obtained at a site called the International Drug Price Indicator.
Interestingly enough, when I visited the site I expected to see marijuana and cocaine. That would have given me an insight into the reason why people get so rich when they deal in illegal drugs. However, the focus is on monies paid by the government. I pay my taxes and there are many things that I would like to see in my country.
Last week I had cause to mention the brief stay I had in the Falklands, because I saw how people made use of their money. Perhaps, I should say, I saw how the government there spends money.  I know that I have had cause to query some of the bids for certain projects. When ‘Fip’ Motilall was given the contract for the hydro road, I examined the cost, and found that by no stretch of imagination could Motilall complete that project for that sum.
But I also saw other projects that appeared to be enormously priced. One of them was the One Laptop Per Family computers. To this day I still believe that the computers cost way too much, almost twice as much as they should cost.
I went to a press conference and I told the moderator, Manzoor Nadir, that I had gone into a computer store and I had seen netbooks for just over US$100. The netbook is a computer with no hard drive. All it can do is to allow for internet use.
I saw tenders for back dam roads and I blinked.  The prices were certainly inflated, but the government could do nothing but go to the bidder with a bid that was not too far off. I also have come to the conclusion that there are people who advise the bidders because I am convinced that corruption stalks the halls of the tender board.
In the case of this tender for the anti-malaria drugs, the nation was able to see the huge variance in the bids because another supplier submitted a bid that was one-ninth the size of the one submitted by New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation.
All I can wonder is what actually happens when there is sole sourcing. If this was a sole sourced supply then to my mind the government would have been paying a lot of money. In this case, because the money was coming from an international source, the government was forced to go to public tender. And in doing so it has exposed a lot. Further I say not.

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