Last year, the media got wind of a secret deal that was inked between the Government and Linden Holding Incorporated for a Sussex Street, Charlestown building to be used as a pharmaceuticals storage bond.
In August 2016, former Public Health Minister Dr. George Norton sought to defend the deal in the National Assembly, however he was unable to give plausible explanations to the Parliamentary Opposition – the People’s Progressive Party/Civic.
Norton had claimed that the agreement was in the interest of cost effectiveness. He had explained that the company was selected to store drugs and other pharmaceuticals for the Ministry of Public Health and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation instead of New GPC, which is owned by Dr. Ranjisinghi (Bobby) Ramroop, because the latter’s rental fees per month was $19.2M while the other entity, Linden Holding Inc. would cost the government $12.5M.
But New GPC, in a subsequent statement, debunked Norton’s claims. The company said it had been storing pharmaceuticals at its warehouse without charges to the Government for more than a decade.
It was also pointed out that there was no need for the added storage space since Government has an equipped storage bond facility at Diamond.
Further, checks to the Sussex Street bond had also revealed that it was empty and construction was still ongoing. Norton subsequently issued a public apology for “misleading the nation”.
Meanwhile, amidst mounting criticism, the Government finally caved in, and in a statement announced that Cabinet engaged in full and thorough discussions on the issue, where it came to the conclusion that the arrangement was undoubtedly undesirable and the search was on for a new facility.
During a press briefing yesterday in Georgetown, Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence was reminded of the bond and the recommendation made by the Cabinet sub-committee to find a new facility at a cheaper price.
The Minister said that plans are afoot to expand the Diamond storage facility which will ultimately pave the way to end usage of the other facility.
Minister Lawrence said yesterday that a meeting was held with the Public Infrastructure Ministry where it was revealed that the Diamond facility’s original plans show that it can be extended.
“So the Ministry of Public Infrastructure is looking at the design and also, to have the tender done. Once we have that and we have all the shelving and other things in, we will be able to remove stock from there (Sussex Street) to Diamond and use that in the interim while we are talking to both Lands and Surveys (Commission) and the Ministry of Health about land to build a bond.” The Minister said.
Asked why the contract has not been terminated despite the criticisms, the Minister responded, “Where are we going to put the stock? That’s my dilemma. Where are we going to put the stock? Don’t forget that we are talking about medical supplies, we’re talking about medicine and they have to be stored under some specific conditions, so we have to ensure that we put our house in order first, and then we move to dispense with that (Sussex Street facility).”
Quizzed on whether any steps are being taken to reduce the rental fee, the Minister said that she is not aware and later stated that she did not inquire.
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