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Jun 07, 2015 News
“We just can’t have sole sourcing; you need to give other companies the opportunity to come and present their cases to you and make it in such a way that the pre-conditions do not limit them from applying and that is what has happened in the past.”
The awarding of contracts to the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Company (GPC) by the Ministry of Health is slated for thorough investigation.
This is according to recently appointed Minister of Public Health, Dr George Norton, who has intimated that this undertaking is listed on his priority agenda.
Dr Norton made this disclosure even as he related that an investigation to ascertain the legality of contracts awarded to the company is seen as a requirement in the quest to restore credibility to the Ministry’s pharmaceutical procurement process.
His remarks were forthcoming as he vocalised concerns about the questionable award of contracts to the company in question mere days before the holding of the May 11, 2015 National and Regional Elections. Valued at US$12.8 million (G$2,677,864,510), contracts were awarded to the company, which is owned by Dr Ranjisinghi (Bobby) Ramroop, a friend of former President, Bharrat Jagdeo.
Although the norm is for the supplying company to be afforded 25 per cent of the cost for supplying, the New GPC was granted 100 per cent of the sum.
“There are so many things that happened in the past that needs to be looked at from a legal point of view and we can promise that we will do everything possible to ensure that we track all illegality,” asserted the Public Health Minister.
He noted that while the recent award will be leading the list, he assured that contracts awarded “across the board” in the health sector will be closely examined as well.
When asked what action will be taken if illegalities are found the Minister noted that “if we see misappropriation we will take these before the court; we will let the court decide.”
“I see as a priority the investigation of the procurement and distribution of medical and pharmaceutical supplies,” said Dr Norton who shared his belief that the Ministry of Health has awarded many questionable contracts. “This has been ongoing since 2005,” said Dr Norton as he alluded to contracts being awarded reportedly without even the knowledge of the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr Leslie Cadogan. “I had to bring (the award of a questionable contract) to his (Cadogan’s) attention not so long ago…and we only learnt of such an award through the Office of the President,” added the Health Minister.
According to Dr Norton too, who has been visiting public health facilities across the country, he has had cause to instruct the urgent auditing of a number of these including the Georgetown Public Hospital and the Berbice Regional Health Authority. The latter he informed has been found to be operating illegally.
The Minister soon after being appointed informed that an issue of concern that will be gaining his attention is the system of procurement of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.
And according to him, during his tenure he will be aiming to make sole sourcing of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals to the Health Ministry a thing of the past. Sole sourcing he pointed out, meant that procurement from a single entity, the New GPC in this case, was done through a Cabinet order. But according to Dr Norton, “that is not the way to go. We have got to go through that method of having everybody on a level playing field by having a bidding process…it doesn’t mean that these (contracts) will always be awarded to the lowest bidder.”
This is in light of the fact, Dr Norton noted, that some cheap medications that are sourced in India, for example, are not of the high quality as some high priced medications that are sourced in Texas, United States. “My experience tells me that some of these high-priced medications are so much more superior than what we can get from Pakistan or Bangladesh or from India…so those are some of the factors we will have to take into consideration,” asserted the Health Minister.
Another factor that must be considered too is the need for healthy competition, said Dr Norton. “We just can’t have sole sourcing; you need to give other companies the opportunity to come and present their cases to you and make it in such a way that the pre-conditions do not limit them from applying and that is what has happened in the past.”
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