George Norton, a medical professional attached to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), yesterday told the
media that the much too drug shortages at health facilities across Guyana, can be attributed to government’s choice to go along the line of sole sourcing.
Dr. Norton made this comment yesterday in his capacity as Shadow Minister of Health as he spoke at an A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) press conference held at the office of the Leader of the Opposition, Hadfield Street, Georgetown.
Dr. Norton was accompanied by his colleague in the National Assembly, Dr. Karen Cummings who shared the views expressed on the issue.
Dr. Norton, an ophthalmologist, told media operatives that it is almost unbelievable the amount of money that is set aside for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies “and is given to The New GPC (Guyana Pharmaceutical Company) and still we are having shortages of drugs in the country.”
The medical professional was faced with a question as to what are some of the reasons he believes that lend to the current shortage of popular drugs like Panadol, Ibuprofen, and antibiotics. Dr. Norton said that it has become a “chronic condition, something we have grown to live with….and it is so strange that at the tenth month of year, the Ministry of Health is still not in a position to say who won the tender to supply them.”
Dr. Norton said that Guyana has to do something to address the chronic situation. He said that one measure which can be looked at is new suppliers.
“We cannot be doing the same thing every year and expect something different.”
Dr. Norton recalled that former Member of Parliament, Winston Murray stood on the floor of the National Assembly and showed the government the benefits of not having a sole supplier or sole sourcing “only for it to fall on deaf ears… it may continue until 2016.”
As Dr. Cummings weighed in, she said that there has been too much “ad-hoc spending.”
She said that unless systemic measures are put in place to address drug shortages, ailing Guyanese will continue to suffer. She added that, from all indications, it seems as if government is just giving money to cronies, as she can see “no scientific reason behind what is happening.”
Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, in July last, announced that the National Procurement and Tender Board (NPTB) found that the new GPC was the only supplier that met all of the requirements as was set out in the revised criteria.
The New GPC is owned by Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop who happens to be the 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.
In defending the decision at the time, Dr. Luncheon told media operatives that the decision to award the contract to the New GPC was not tantamount to sole sourcing.
He said that the Tender Board picked New GPC from among seven companies that applied to be pre-qualified.
When asked if the criteria used to pre-qualify a company were not biased in favour of New GPC, Luncheon said, “The criterion is biased in favour of safety.”
At least one of the other bidders have since moved to the court to have the decision by the Tender Board be reversed, adding that the revised criteria set out by the Ministry was discriminatory.
Chief Executive Officer of International Pharmaceutical Corporation (IPA), Lloyd Singh, in his legal challenge to the tender board decision claims that the move by the Ministry was discriminatory of itself, or in its effect and decision.
He further argues that the decision by the Ministry was unconstitutional, in that it violated Article 149 and as such, has asked that the court orders the decision that New GPC be the sole prequalified supplier of drugs and medical supplies, null and void.
Under the contentious revised criteria, bidders had to demonstrate a gross annual turnover of US$5M and net assets of US$2.5M.
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 had 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 seeming close relationship between its main principal and the Administration.
Ansa McAl was the first to protest the decision by the Tender Board. That company had also lodged a formal complaint.
In late 2010, Stabroek News carried an editorial piece titled “Sole-sourcing and the New GPC.”
It said, “It is by no means an overstatement to say that the refusal by the Ministry of Health to secure drugs for state institutions through public tender rather than persist with its sole-sourcing method that basically puts public funds into the pocket of the Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC) without the company having to do much more than simply go out and acquire the drugs is highly improper. It is, after all, no secret that GPC Director Ranjisinghi Ramroop is a friend of the administration. Dr Ramroop, moreover, is by no means the only person close to the administration who has been known to benefit from its preferential generosity. Sole sourcing and selective tendering are among the favoured ways of awarding contracts to people who are strategically placed to benefit from state-provided largesse…”
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