…Govt. unclear what it had in stock at drug bonds
A key inquiry report into alleged leaking of information to drug suppliers at the Ministry of Public Health last year is pointing to poor management of the inventory of pharmaceuticals.
The inventory, worth billions of dollars, was last year stored mainly in the state-of-the-art Materials Management Unit (MMU) facility at Diamond, East Bank Demerara and Central Stores Unit (CSU) at Mudflat, Kingston.
Another bond, at Albouystown, has since been established.
According to the report prepared by Winston Cosbert, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ret’d), a Field Auditor of Ministry of Public Health, Hemchand Persaud, testified before the Board of Inquiry late last year that his responsibilities entailed checking the MMU at Diamond and the CSU at Kingston quarterly and submitting a report with his finding to the Permanent Secretary.
According to Persaud, during the period July 25th, 2016 to August 31st, 2016, he conducted an audit at the MMU Diamond warehouse where he unearthed several discrepancies. Among other things, it was found that expired products were being disposed of without any proper documentation or Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) followed.
“Over ninety-five percent (95%) of the product balances in the Management Accounting System (MAC) Inventory System is incorrect, in some instances they are understated or overstated by the thousands,” the report said.
The Board of Inquiry was ordered by President David Granger in October to investigate reports of the unauthorized disclosure of information to suppliers. The inquiry was also supposed to investigate reports of malpractice and mismanagement of the pharmaceuticals that had been bought by the ministry.
Among other things, the auditor found that at the new Diamond facility, unauthorized personnel were entering the warehouse and uplifting supplies.
“Internal controls are seriously lacking at the facility. Currently random checks are not made to items being dispatched to facilities to ensure the correct quantities or products are dispatched. The dispatches are just prepared as gate passes stating the amount of cartons leaving the warehouse.”
At the Kingston bond, the auditor found that management was also poor.
None of the product locations were labelled.
”Like items are stored in multiple locations. Whilst counting the Stationery Store, the department came across a large quantity of items packed on three separate pallets. A query was made, to which the response given was that the items were already sorted, issued by the store, and awaiting shipment to the various regions.”
In other instances, drugs and other supplies were issued without approval for computers and other high value items.
“The department requested a master list for both stores. The lists presented were incomplete. In both cases bin cards found were more than triple the amount of items listed on the master lists. The department then requested a list of all bin cards kept by the Stationery Store to aid the preparation of the Master List. The Store Keeper was verbally reminded daily for over a week to which no progress was made,” the report said.
The report had also mentioned several other worrying revelations with regards to the procurement and management of the country’s drug supplies for its regional hospitals and health centres.
It recommended the sacking of current Permanent Secretary (PS) Trevor Thomas, for failure to properly carry out his duties. He was accused of allowing a major supplier, New GPC, to be overpaid more than $100M in an advance for pharmaceuticals last year.
The PS was also accused of turning a blind eye when it was brought to his attention that a staffer was colluding with a Trinidadian company in leaking information about other suppliers. There was no investigation, yet the staffer was transferred.
There were several other instances of what appeared to be wrongdoing at the ministry, the report said.
The report by the retired senior cop also recommended a shake-up in personnel in the procurement, finance and management departments of the ministry.
The Cabinet of Ministers is set to consider the report next week at its weekly meeting.
Yesterday, Minister of State Joseph Harmon, expressed displeasure that the report had made its way into public without being considered by Cabinet. He said that the persons named had a right to be heard and replied. He said that action will be taken, based on the recommendations, but these will be dependent on the considerations of Cabinet.
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