Home Letters Allegations of discrimination must be based on evidence
It has become fashionable for Opposition forces to level allegations of discrimination against the PPPC Government on every sector of the economy, thus it was not surprising that the Ministry of Health also came under their scrutiny.
They stated, for example, that G$19.1 billion of capital funds in 2022 had been allocated for the purchase of medical supplies and medications. Wrong! The amount allocated instead was G$17.7 billion. This is just one case in a pattern of incorrect information being pedalled to the public.
While political rhetoric and platitudes would sensationalise allegations and create uneasiness among people, Government officials and supporters should not be excused from responding to them by producing evidence to prove otherwise. Critics must likewise produce evidence to support their claims.
It is in this context that I found it necessary to conduct research into aspects of procurement at one Government agency – the Ministry of Health (MoH) – for the year 2022, to determine if there has been any evidence to support allegations of discrimination. (When data become available for 2023, this research would be updated accordingly). Critics referred to the New GPC (NGPC) and Western Scientific (WSC) contracts that were awarded for the procurement of drugs, supplies, and equipment for the MoH as a “classic case” of discrimination. They stated, for example, that the drugs, supplies, and equipment had been sourced from only two vendors, NGPC and WSC, and that these were awarded on a sole source basis.
However, they failed to produce any evidence to support their allegations. Let us examine the evidence. In respect to the contract awards that were won by New GPC and Western Scientific, 16 awards were made through public tendering, 2 were through the restrictive tender method, and 3 were through the sole source method.
In addition, contracts totalling G$1.433 billion were awarded to other contractors, for which NGPC and WSC did not participate. A further amount of G$4.5 billion covered contracts awarded by Local Government authorities for purchase of medical supplies and equipment. NGPC and WSC were not involved in those procurements.
I recall that similar charges of discrimination were made against the PPPC Government in the awarding of contracts for road construction projects: (i) Schoonard to Crane Road project (worth G$11 billion; (ii) the Mandela to Eccles Road Project at G$2.3 billion); and (iii) Eccles to Diamond Road Project (G$3.9 billion). Critics indicated that Afro-Guyanese, for example, benefitted by only 17% from these combined contracts (total value of G$33.2 billion).
If one goes down this track, then the argument can be made that if annual wages payable to 54,000 Government workers are combined, these would amount to G$110 billion, of which Afro-Guyanese would receive over G$72.0 billion (or 65.5% of total wage bill).
The point is: “Why would the award of contracts to Indo-Guyanese be likened to a transfer of state resources to them (Indo-Guyanese), and why the transfer of state resources to pay wages to Afro-Guyanese and others be viewed differently, and not as cash transfers too?”
Back to MoH! Another misconception is that medical supplies and equipment were purchased from capital funds. This is misleading. Capital funds are used to purchase only equipment; while the purchase of drugs and medical supplies is made from the expense budget. Of the total contract award of G$11.767 billion to NGPC and WSC, for example, only 7.3% were funded from capital expense; while the remainder (92.7%) were from expense budget.
Lacking evidence, or distorting social reality and using this to claim corruption or discrimination is not the path smart people would traverse. The Ministry of Health assures us that the process of awarding these contracts was transparent and in accordance with the procurement rules. The bids were evaluated by NPTAB, and there was no complaint about discrimination lodged at either the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) or the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC).
Further, critics have failed to show whether there was any contractor who submitted a responsive bid that was lower in price than that of the awardees and was bypassed, or whether the procurement process was tainted.
Finally, I want to make it pellucid that I do not support any form of corruption or discrimination. And yes, people have the right to ask questions or to seek clarification on policies and actions of any Government. However, what they should not embrace or produce in their quest to seek the truth are statements unsupported by evidence/facts
Dr Tara Singh