The controversy surrounding the recent emergency purchase of critically needed drugs and medical supplies for the health sector, particularly the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) should be put to rest by an investigation.
This was told to the media this afternoon by Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence, who stated that instructions have been given to the Board of the GPHC to carry out an investigation into the purchases which are being seen as controversial by some.
Minister Lawrence, at a press conference at the National Communications Network, recalled that on February 3, she convened a meeting of the GPHC’s senior management to ascertain the true state of the supplies of drugs available at the institution. This, she said, followed several media reports and complaints that certain drugs and medical supplies were in short supply.
The Minister added that discussions revealed that in, “excess of 200 types of drugs were short.” It was also revealed that the drugs were in short supply due to several “gaps in the system” and due to being bought from private hospitals, “on an as needed basis.”
Following these discussions, Minister Lawrence ordered a stock count, and she was informed that 287 types of drugs/ medicines were out of stock. She said that she then questioned how to fill the gap, in supplies since 2017 drug supplies were yet to be tendered. She added that the time frame to acquire some of the drugs was given as varying between three to six months. In order to supply the drugs in a much shorter time frame, the Minister said it was suggested by the committee that a list of shortlisted companies, “be approached to have them bid on the list of items.” These companies would tender to supply the drugs within a two -week period.
Excluded from this aforementioned process would be those companies which were under investigation for various breaches in fulfilling their previous contractual obligations to the GPHC/ Ministry of Public Health. These companies, the Minister explained, were not invited to be part of this supply process. She explained that these companies had previously given various reasons why they were unable to fulfill their contractual obligations.
She pointed to the practice by some suppliers, to indicate their inability to supply the items for which they received payment when close to the delivery date. Others, she said provided a few of the items then refused to provide the rest, blaming unexpected changes in the global market prices. Only four companies were shortlisted, as a result, she added.
The decision was taken by the GPHC’s Management Committee to contract the four shortlisted companies. According to Minister Lawrence, she had no part in the actual process of procurement and Cabinet was informed of the drug supply situation. She was informed that the drugs were being supplied as per the tenders given to the companies. It was after this, the Minister said, that she discovered that there was a contract for the Ansa Mcal company for the sum of more than $600 million.
This revelation, prompted the Minister to request that the contract be pulled as she wanted to know why and how this was done. Upon contacting the Chief Executive officer for the GPHC, Minister Lawrence said she was informed that this was the tender issued, and Ansa Mcal was handling the cold chain aspect. “They were flying these things in and most of their drugs were coming from Europe and as a result of that, that is how it ended up to being that amount of money.”
The Minister noted that two days after this, the tender documents for Ansa Mcal were printed in the newspapers, and the “rollercoaster started from then.” It was as a result of this issue, she said that persons had varying opinions, hence her hosting the press conference.
The aforementioned investigation, the Minister stated will answer all the questions being raised and ascertain whether anyone needed to be sanctioned, if at all. She reiterated that the procurement process was not within her ambit as the sector’s Minister nor was it that of Cabinet.
With regards to other companies not shortlisted, Minister Lawrence said that the state of affairs she discovered after she took up the post, prompted several investigations to be launched, some of which are in the hands of the Guyana Police Force.
The Food and Drug Department will also participate in the investigations currently underway, she added, with auditors also working overtime to assist.
In conclusion, Minister Lawrence stated that the investigations will determine whether the correct procedures were followed, whether too much or too little was ordered and all other necessary details.