The Coalition Government is still facing more questions over the decision by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) to sole source emergency pharmaceutical drugs valued at $605 million from Trinidad firm, Ansa McAl.
A report following an investigation by the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) established that throughout the past year and the first two months of this year, the GPHC was plagued by shortages of pharmaceuticals. This situation was linked to a combination of factors ranging from late award of contracts for 2016 to delayed launch of tender for 2017.
When the National Assembly meets on Friday, Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan will face a series of questions from the opposition relating to the GPHC purchase. The questions relate to GPHC’s initial decision to purchase the drugs without the approval of a waiver of the Procurement Act and proceed to make payment.
Minister Jordan will be asked to provide information as to what actions, if any, has been taken by the National Tender & Procurement Administration Board (NTPAB). The questions are expected to be given orally by Opposition Member of Parliament, Bishop Juan Edghill.
“The questions need to be answered,” Edghill told Kaieteur News.
Once information surfaced that the GPHC had executed the multi-million dollar purchase, the Government and in particular, Minister of Health, Volda Lawrence faced a firestorm. The Minister had maintained that she played no part in the procurement process, which was later supported by the PPC’s report.
The PPC in its report was able to highlight that former Acting Chief Executive Officer, Allan Johnson, was at the centre of the Procurement Act breaches.
According to the report, the actions of the former 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 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. While the Minister urged GPHC to fast track the purchase, the PPC held the view that this was not a directive to bypass the NPTAB.
In order to prevent future breaches 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 recurrences 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 recommended that GPHC 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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