Govt grilled on use of selective, direct procurement

Financial Paper No 2

The reading of Financial Paper Number Two, seeking some $2.5 billion in

PPP Member of Parliament, Dr Frank Anthony

supplemental funding, got underway on Thursday. However, revelations that the Ministries of Public Health and Public Infrastructure sought contractors for which selective tendering and even no tendering was done caused an uproar in the National Assembly.

In the case of the Public Health Ministry, the subject Minister was forced to defend the decision to go directly to the manufacturer for the provision of a mammography system for the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPHC), without a competitive tender.

Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence

The Government was seeking $86.1 million for this.

Explaining the decision, Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence said the Ministry has experienced instances whereby contractors claiming to be authorised dealers for manufacturers of certain equipment were actually not so. In fact, she stated that these dealers have actually provided documents which were falsified.

“So we decided that we would go to the manufacturer and the intention is to get their brand. They have two agents in the Caribbean and Latin America and so we will be going with them to purchase the equipment.”

The manufacturer, Lawrence informed the House, is Siemens. The Minister also revealed that a survey was done to determine the target group for the Mammography system, which the Government intends to provide service free of charge.

Responding to questions from Opposition parliamentarian, Dr Frank Anthony,

Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson

Lawrence affirmed that the system would provide early screening for suspected cancer patients. However, she said she did not have the details of the survey with her. Nevertheless, the supplemental provision was put to vote and granted uncontested.

But when it was revealed that the Public Health Ministry was again making a direct approach to the manufacturer for the second line item, a Plateletpheresis machine for the National Blood Bank, to the tune of $12.2 million, the Minister faced a barrage of questions.

Faced with the incredulity of the Opposition, Lawrence defended the Ministry’s procurement policy by affirming that some of the Ministry’s equipment purchased from budgetary allocations were subject to public tendering. Lawrence however said she did not have the specific information but would supply it at a later date.

In the case of the Plateletpheresis machine, the Minister explained that they went the route of tendering directly from that particular manufacturer, an Argentina company named Terumo because they were offering free training for bio medical technicians.

According to Lawrence, Guyana has a severe shortage of these professionals and as a consequence, millions of dollars in equipment became dysfunctional and could not be serviced. However, Opposition parliamentarian, Dr Vishwa Mahadeo was unconvinced that this warranted selective tendering.

Dr Anthony also queried what form of training would be provided and the duration. However, Lawrence deferred the answer, stating that she did not have that information because they would have to negotiate with the company. Hence, Lawrence inferred that even knowing what value Guyana would get in the form of training hinges on passing the supplemental funds. Using its one seat majority, Government muscled through the provisions through.

The Public Health Ministry has been on the public’s radar for the past few months owing to its procurement practises.

Public infrastructure

Under line item 32-322, the Public Infrastructure Ministry sought $120 million to facilitate reconstruction and critical rehabilitation works for a bridge located on the Bagotsville main public road.

According to the remarks included in the financial paper, $30.2 million from that money will also be used for the bypass road through La Parfaite Harmonie, on the West Bank of Demerara; $43.9 million for the substructure; and $39 million for the super structure. In addition, expenditure for miscellaneous works was listed as $6.9 million.

Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson, defended the use of selective tendering by stating that the works needed to be done were an emergency. He also affirmed that the contractors satisfied the Ministry’s expectations.

“Four contractors were selected,” Patterson said. “They (had technical expertise), were financially sound and checks on their existing workload was done. And three months is the construction period.”

Three hundred million dollars was sought by the Ministry for sea and river defence works. According to the remarks, the money is to be used to design, construct and supervise 600 and 200 metres of sea defence along critical sections of the coastline at Rotterdam-Ruimzigt, West Coast Demerara; and Cottage, Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara.

“These works are intended to promote climate change resilience through the improvement of flood protection infrastructure along vulnerable low-lying coastal areas. Currently, at Rotterdam-Ruimzigt, the mangrove has degraded and there is imminent threat to a breach of the embankment,” the paper warned.

“At Cottage, there is a total loss of the mangrove forest and there is over topping resulting in saline water intruding into connecting canals affecting farmlands. Additionally, the Cottage sluice is subjected to erosion and under threat of undermining which would eventually compromise the integrity of the structure.”

The Ministry eventually had the sums for all three line items approved.