Former Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, has disagreed that the pronouncements by government during the 2018 budget debate will fix the procurement crisis that exists within the Ministry of Public Health.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament highlighted the pronouncement by the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, in his budget speech.
He commended the Minister of Finance for his candour when he stated that the challenges faced by the public health sector are many and varied shortages of drugs and problems of procurement; continued stress on the National Referral Hospital, health infrastructure deficits and disparities between the hinterland and the coastland.
He stated that he listened to Lawrence’s budget presentation and her pronouncements on procurement with pity and amusement.
“I agree with the Minister, when she boldly declared, “the people of Guyana will not be allowed to suffer. “But I disagree with her that by her magical pronouncements, she has fixed the procurement crisis of the Ministry,” Anthony stated.
He added, “The Ministry of Public Health is the leading violator of good tender board procedures and norms.”
Anthony noted that the Auditor General Report of 2017 which pointed out that minutes of the Ministerial Tender Board meetings were not kept, yet the Ministry has awarded contracts worth millions of dollars.
He said without the minutes there is no evidence whether a contract was awarded to lowest or highest bidder, whether the contracts were split, when advertisements were done or was it a case of sole sourcing, and whether these companies are compliant to provide services.
Anthony stated that in 2016, Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Karen Cummings, declared that the Ministry of Public Health has embraced a new procurement paradigm called open competitive bidding.
She declared that no more sole sourcing of medicines and medical supplies will occur.
“This was the same year when we discover infamous Sussex Street Bond deal, despite several investigations, and public outcry, and ministers playing musical chairs, the deal is still in place. Again the government’s inaction speaks louder than their words,” Anthony stated.
He said the Public Procurement Commission Investigations into Procurement of Emergency Drugs at the Georgetown Public Health Corporation (GPHC), have pointed out how the institution sole source drugs and medical supplies, without permission from the tender board.
He stated that this is a flagrant breach of Section 17(1) and 25(2) of the Procurement Act, but to date no one has been held accountable.
According to Anthony, the Auditor General Report has cited 71 examples of breaches in the Procurement Act and 82 examples of breaches of the Financial Management and Accountability Act.
He noted that these breaches have increased by more than 100 percent since 2015. Anthony also stated that in the midst of the drug shortages, the government has allowed millions of dollars worth in drugs to expire.
Over the last 30 months, the Ministry of Public Health has been bombarded with criticism from various quarters regarding the procurement of drugs and medical supplies.
Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence has stated that the Ministry has established a Procurement Department.
Lawrence noted that the Procurement Department now has the responsibility for the acquisition of drugs and medicines that meet prescribed safety and health standards at a cost effective price.
“The recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry into the Ministry of Public Health’s procurement procedures, the Reports and comments emanating from the Auditor General’s Office, and the investigation into the award for emergency drugs at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), together with the Public Procurement Commission’s findings on the matter, have emboldened the Ministry to establish a Procurement Department.”
Lawrence explained that this Department has its full complement of staff; a USAID-trained and experienced Manager, Supervisors and Support Staff, who will ensure that the Ministry of Health follows the guidelines stipulated in the Procurement Act and adheres to the principles of the Segregation of Duties.
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