It is almost a month since Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon disclosed that that Cabinet approved New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC) as the nation’s sole pre-qualified supplier of drugs to the Government. However, this move, according to Parliamentarian Joseph Harmon, shows that the contract is a continuation of government’s ‘feeding frenzy’.
According to Harmon, it is most frightening – the manner in which the resources of this country are being allocated to a small group of persons.
Harmon in an interview with this newspaper said if one were to really take time and look at the pre-qualification specifications, it would be observed that it set up and prepared the groundwork for the contract to be awarded to New GPC.
Harmon believes that the entire process at the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board is being subverted for the benefit of a few companies. He told Kaieteur News that if this is to continue, the Tender Board would become a white elephant, only doing the bidding for persons in government.
Harmon said that while he isn’t casting any aspersions at persons who are employed at the Tender Board, one must note that the appointment of those persons is at the behest of the Minister.
“I’m not casting any aspersions, but the process is open for manipulation,” Harmon told Kaieteur News. He noted that even where you have strong recommendations made to the Tender Board, they are being over ridden.
Harmon stressed that sometimes it doesn’t matter what the Tender Board says, Cabinet can still switch the decision, and that needs to change immediately.
“Tender Board is just a filter. It’s no longer exercising that authority which it ought to show and it’s happening now because we have a government that is unaccountable to the country, and a cabinet that isn’t required to be transparent in what they do,” Harmon said.
A few weeks ago Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon challenged Ansa McAL to produce to the public what it submitted to the Tender Board.
Ansa McAl came out publically and stated that no member of the evaluation team for the pre-qualification of drug suppliers to Government inspected their facilities. The company has written to the Tender Board, lodging a complaint.
Dr. Luncheon said that Cabinet would have made a decision based on the report that was submitted to it by Tender Board. He asserted that since Ansa McAl has publicly questioned the integrity of the evaluation process, it does not have to wait to be formally written to, but is free to go ahead and lodge its complaints.
The Trinidadian conglomerate has vehemently and publicly questioned its exclusion from the drug supply pre-qualification status.
Managing Director Beverly Harper had told this publication that when the company saw the criteria, it was certain that they had fully met the demands.
“We saw the criteria and we thought that we could have satisfied what was being asked for…We would have never applied if we didn’t think that we met the criteria.”
New GPC is owned by Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, best friend of former President, Bharrat Jagdeo. That company has been supplying the bulk of the drugs to Government for the past 15 years, ever since it was acquired by Ramroop in 1999.
Ever since the announcement of the award to New GPC, the matter has been in the limelight.
Asked whether the decision to award New GPC was not tantamount to sole sourcing, given that the company would be the only one to get drug contracts, Dr. Luncheon disagreed.
New GPC was picked from among seven companies that applied to be pre-qualified.
“Our result was that, there is only one company that satisfied those requirements as far as NPTAB was concerned, and that was brought to Cabinet,” according to Dr. Luncheon.
At the time of the announcement Dr. Luncheon was asked if the criteria used to pre-qualify a company were not biased in favour of New GPC. The Cabinet Secretary had responded that “The criteria are biased in favour of safety.”
Last week Luncheon was asked if New GPC was benefiting because of the relationship that the owner enjoys with Jagdeo.
In response, he pointed to the level of investment by New GPC.
The pre-qualification criteria which were used to allow New GPC to be chosen, have been described by the Opposition as being “unreasonable” and tailor-made to have that company secure the status.
The previous list of companies that were pre-qualified to supply drugs expired since December. Prior to inviting submissions for another round of pre-qualification, Government revised the criteria. This led to the accusations that the government was positioning New GPC to be the only company meeting the requirements to win out.
Under the revised criteria, bidders had to demonstrate a gross annual turnover of US$5 million and net assets of US$2.5 million.
Another criterion was that maximum score was to be awarded to applicants who would have paid $50M in Corporate taxes, annually. Additionally, the company that has 50 or more employees, and warehousing capacity of 30,000 square feet in the city, will also gain an edge.
New GPC has been a feature in the Auditor General’s report over the years with several instances focused on multi-million-dollar deficiencies in the procurement and supply of drugs to Government. The purchase of drugs this year is expected to surpass US$25M. The purchases have been a major source of contention between Government and the Opposition for years now, because of the seemingly close relationship between its main principal and the Administration.
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