The tabling of a Tobacco Control Bill is slated for next week Thursday. This is according to Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence.
Lawrence made this disclosure during an engagement with representatives of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry [GCCI].
The Minister’s response in this regard was prompted when President of the GCCI, Mr. Deodat Indar, raised the issue of the impending Tobacco Control Bill, pointing out that it appears oversized.
The Minister in response said that the Bill will be tabled in Parliament on June 15, 2017. She, however, suggested that the GCCI submit their comments in writing about the Bill to her Office.
A tobacco control legislation is critical to reduce diseases that are the leading causes of death in Guyana. As such, the Tobacco Control Bill was long in the making, and was touted as a crucial need since in 2009. The Bill gained the attention of at least three other Ministers before Lawrence.
Among the other issues that the Minister discussed was a request from Indar, that a representative of the private sector be appointed to the Board. This was premised on the fact, Indar said, that many state Boards have a private sector representative.
Meanwhile, GCCI Vice President, Timothy Tucker, raised issues relating to the operations of the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department [GAF&DD). He lamented that resulting from a prior meeting with the GCCI and the Director of Food and Drug, Mr. Marlan Cole, some issues were left unresolved. These, he said, included complaints made by members of the GCCI on the uneven dispensation of the powers of the office of the Director of Food and Drug. According to him, member companies have complained that they felt that they are targeted.
In response, the Minister told the GCCI that “the buck stops with me,” since she is responsible for the Food and Drug Department, and that matters emanating from the department have her attention.
Tucker also raised the issue of revision of the regulations for the importation of goods. Minister Lawrence, it was reported, has agreed for the GCCI to review the Food and Drugs Act, and to make recommendations along with other stakeholders. The Minister also agreed that her Ministry will pursue the GCCI’s recommendation on matters that would have a negative impact on the business community.
Also addressed at the meeting was the issue of public procurement practices, as it relates to healthcare supplies. The President of the GCCI said that there are complaints received by member companies that public procurement tendering for supplies is not being done as frequently as it should be, and he asked about the pre-qualification of suppliers.
The Minister moreover pointed out that a pre-qualification process will not be used anymore, since the Ministry had undertaken a process of re-designing the bidding process. As such, everyone who is bidding for a contract will have to go through the same process and will be given a fair chance. However, the Minister did note that no system is perfect, thus the Ministry of Public Health was going to review the process every six months to identify areas that can be improved.
The meeting concluded with the Minister agreeing to continue quarterly constructive collaboration with the GCCI, which is said to be the leading private sector body in the country. For its part, the GCCI welcomed the opportunity to have a frank, respectful and candid dialogue about its concerns with the Ministry of Public Health, and both parties agreed to review the situation in July 2017.
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