There has been no information to support the contention that a shortage of pharmaceutical at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC] earlier this year was artificial or engineered to facilitate the subsequent sole sourcing of emergency supplies.
This was the deduction made following an investigation conducted by the Public Procurement Commission [PPC] into the procurement of emergency drugs by the GPHC.
The PPC report which was submitted to Parliament last week has been able to substantiate that throughout the past year and the first two months of this year, the GPHC was plagued by shortages of pharmaceuticals.
The shortage situation has been linked to a combination of factors ranging from late award of contracts for 2016 to delayed launch of tender for 2017.
The aim of the investigation was to determine whether the procurement of emergency drugs by the GPHC to the value of $631 million from four suppliers of which Ansa McAl was requested to supply pharmaceuticals to the value of $605 million was executed in accordance with the Procurement Act Chapter 73:05 and Regulations.
Based on the investigation, one major issue that impacted the availability of drugs at the GPHC during the 2016/2017 period was the inaccurate quantification of drugs procured for the 2016 annual supplies. This situation was compounded by the late and short deliveries after contracts were awarded for that year only at the end of June 2016 with a delivery period of three to six months.
In addition, during the investigation it was discovered that the GPHC made numerous ad hoc purchases of pharmaceuticals amounting to five times the 2016 annual tender.
According to the information garnered during the investigation too, the length of time taken to complete the tender process for the 2017 annual supplies was similar to that of 2016 and resulted from the same pattern of errors committed in 2016.
Starting with the inaccurate quantification of needs in August 2016, contracts for the 2017 suppliers were finally awarded at the end of June 2017.
It was revealed too that the evaluation of tenders process, which should generally last no longer than one month, endured from February 14, 2017 to June 30, 2017.
“In this situation the purchase of the emergency drugs would have served to address the shortages anticipated pending receipt of the annual supplies,” the PPC’s investigation deduced.
In outlining that the Procurement Act of breached, the PPC in its report was able to highlight that former Chief Executive Officer [ag], Allan Johnson, was at the centre of such actions and at the same time absolved Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence.
According to the report the actions of the CEO to write to suppliers informing them of awards made for them to supply pharmaceuticals to a total value of $631 million without obtaining the requisite review of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board [NPTAB] and ‘no objection’ from Cabinet was in breach of Sections 17  and 25  of the Procurement Act.
It was outlined that the CEO was very much aware that he had breached the Act since he subsequently sought to obtain retroactive approval of his actions even as the GPHC started receiving the supplies ordered.
At the same time the PPC noted in the report that it was not presented with any information which indicated that the Minister instructed the GPHC to breach the Procurement Act. ‘Approval to ‘fast track’ does not translate to ‘bypass’ the NPTAB,” the PPC emphasised in its report.
It was noted that the GPHC was asked to devise a plan to ‘fast track’ the emergency drugs and thus a plan was provided that reflected a delivery period of two weeks for the drugs. According to the report, “the Minister’s approval related to her instruction for them to present a plan as to how they could bring in emergency drugs in the shortest possible time.”
It was at this juncture the PPC revealed that it was found that sole source method was adopted as the fastest means since it avoids a tender and evaluation process.
But in order to prevent future breach of the Procurement Act, the PPC in its report has recommended that the GPHC, among other things, execute all procurement transactions in accordance with the Procurement Act.
The GPHC has been urged to “establish appropriate systems to avoid reoccurrences of breaches such as contract splitting and use of procurement methods which are not supported by the Act.”
The PPC has proposed that the Board of the GPHC should work assiduously to develop and approve a Procurement Policy and procedures Manual. The PPC has also outlined the need for the GPHC to, “to plan its procuring activities more effectively, including at minimum preparation of an annual procurement plan, which should be effectively executed and monitored.”
This tactic, according to the PPC, would serve to also reduce the need to engage in small purchases as well as ‘emergency procurements’.
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