Nov 22, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland has found “sufficient evidence” in a Motion
taken to the House which resolved to have Public Health Minister, Dr. George Norton sent before the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges. The transgression cited in the Motion is Norton’s actions on August, 8 when he misled the House on details relating to the rental of the infamous Sussex Street drug bond.
The Motion approved yesterday stood in the name of shadow Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony.
The Committee of Privileges looks at any matter which appears to affect the powers and privileges of the Assembly. The Committee considers any such matter and reports thereon to the Assembly. It is chaired by the Speaker, Dr. Scotland. The other members are Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, Attorney General Basil Williams, Minister Joseph Harmon and Minister Ronald Bulkan. Representing the Opposition are Members of Parliament Charrandas Persaud, Clement Rohee, Mohabir Nandlall, Priya Manickchand and Adrian Anamayah.
When Dr. Scotland announced his ruling to have Dr. Norton sent to the disciplinary committee, Attorney General Williams took the floor in an attempt to make a clarification. But, Dr. Scotland cautioned the Member that he will not entertain any position on his judgment and that it was final.
In several whereas clauses, Dr. Anthony recalled that during the examination of Supplementary Financial Paper # 1 of 2016 on August 8, Dr. Norton admitted that the government had entered into a multi-year rental agreement with a new company, Linden Holdings Company, to store pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
Dr. Anthony said that the Minister misinformed and misled the National Assembly and the nation repeatedly on that occasion when he stated that the reason that no procurement process was followed with regard to the selection of the company, Linden Holding Company, for a three year contract was that the facility was required on an emergency basis. Dr. Anthony said that Norton also misinformed the House when he said that the facility for storing pharmaceuticals and medical supplies was certified in keeping with international standards set out by PAHO/WHO.
Dr. Anthony said that the Minister was unable to enlighten the House as to the nature of the emergency which required another pharmaceutical bond and, one in particular to be based in Georgetown, when there is adequate space at the Diamond government-owned Bond as well as at the Georgetown Public Hospital Bond
In yet another whereas clause, Dr. Anthony said that according to the transcript of the August 8, sitting, the Minister admitted to the House that there was no public tendering, and, in fact, there was no procurement process followed with regard to the selection of Linden Holdings Company for a three year contract;
Dr. Anthony said that, most grievously, Minister Norton claimed to have personally visited the location on several occasions and affirmed it was fully in accordance with international standards for the storage of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. “This was found to not be so; published photographic evidence illustrated on August 8th and days after, that this was an empty residential building of less than 6000 square feet which was devoid of any facilities required for a fully equipped and certified pharmaceutical bond as claimed by the Minister.”
Dr. Anthony also noted that the House was informed that $25M had already been paid in rental and security deposit for the period July to August 2016 as provided for in the Supplementary Financial Paper No. 1 of 2016 yet as of August 8, the building was empty of any pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and was not in a position to store any medicines or any other medical supplies as was claimed.
Dr. Anthony said too that the Minister of Health when questioned, misinformed the House with regard to the cost of the rental of Bond space at the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (NGPC) at G$19M per month when in fact under the PPP/C government the Bond was provided free of cost, and, according to the Supplementary Financial Paper No. 1 of 2016 the cost of the rent for the NGPC Bond for the months of March —June 2016 was $ 9. 6 M per month. Dr. Anthony continued, “And whereas the Minister in doing so deliberately attempted to justify the cost of the rental for the Sussex Street property owned by the Linden Holdings Company at G$12.5 M per month, and in doing so, misinformed the House.”
The Opposition Member of Parliament also noted that the contract arranged for a “professional office space” instead of a bond.
The drug bond fiasco is one of the biggest scandals to plague the APNU+AFC government during its time in Office.
President David Granger had set up a Cabinet sub-committee to review the matter. This Committee recommended that Dr. Norton apologize to the Speaker, which he did.
Norton has also held a press conference to announce that he had erred based on advice that he had received.
Linden Holdings Company is owned by firearms dealer Larry Singh. Singh is a friend of government. The PPP/C has maintained that this is a corrupt deal.
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