The Public Health Ministry on Wednesday commissioned a new central supplies unit at Kingston, Georgetown, to provide more space for the storage of medical supplies.
Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Finance Ministry Glendon Fogenay stated that the unit has moved several times since the early 1980s to facilitate a growing demand for space.
Its previous locations included Quamina Street, Liliendaal, Kingston and then Camp and Charlotte Streets, Georgetown. The new building is larger in capacity and will host a conference room, staff room, sickbay, storage, and office spaces among other amenities.
“Our new bond was constructed at a cost of $539 million, which in it contains 11,520 square feet of both storage and administrative space. This new and modern facility will operate with a staff complement of 20 persons, receiving, storing and dispatching more than 200 commodities. In essence, the storage capacity of this facility will alleviate most of the Ministry’s storage difficulties,” the Deputy Permanent Secretary informed.
Auditor General Deodat Sharma acknowledged the fact that the Ministry had been red flagged for lack of accountability of the various bonds. As such, these corrective steps will ensure a sense of responsibility.
“A number of vital and control mechanisms to ensure proper accountability for stock were not in place at the various drug bonds across the country. On this basis, my office issued recommendations that were designed at improving systems, practices and improving Ministry’s accountability mechanism…I’m happy that the Ministry of Health has taken corrective steps for accountability of stocks by commissioning this Kingston bond,” Sharma highlighted.
He advised that the safe storage of supplies and record keeping are some regulations that should be followed and if not, liable persons could be charged for failure to conduct their duties.
“I continue to urge you to maintain good storage practice, which includes well-trained personnel, proper record keeping, defined storage areas and to ensure security to provide unauthorised access,” Sharma stated.
Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence revealed that the previous bond was unhealthy and unsafe for employees to work, prompting allocations to establish another facility.
“The atmosphere in the bond was dismal. It was uninspiring. Moreover, the conditions made it impossible for proper accountability. The Ministry could not allow the CSU staff to continue at this facility,” Lawrence stated.
The Ministry had come under criticism for the controversial Sussex Street, Georgetown drug bond, after the State had paid out over $200 million in rental fees in just under two years.
Lawrence stated that from July 2016 to March 2018, the sum of $264.5 million was doled out to pay Linden Holdings Incorporated.
The transaction first came to light in 2016 during consideration of Financial Papers, when it was discovered that Government had in fact entered a contract to pay a VAT- excluded $12.5 million monthly rental for the storage of drugs and medical supplies.
It was also discovered that $25 million was already spent as a security deposit, in addition to $12.5 million, representing monthly rentals from August to December 2016.
The criticism that erupted led President David Granger to set up a Cabinet sub-committee to investigate the matter and make recommendations.
After much criticism and fallout, the Government said that they had stopped renting the facility in December 2018.