Millions wasted through procurement scandals – Dr Anthony
– as MP lambastes Govt for mismanagement of projects
The second day of the Budget 2019 debates kicked off on Tuesday with Opposition Member of Parliament (MP), Dr Frank Anthony taking the Government to task for breaches to the procurement laws, the shady deals it has been entering and wastage of taxpayers’ dollars.
In his presentation, Dr Anthony noted that Guyana has not been getting value for money. He pointed to the Auditor General’s 2017 report, which found 13 contracts totalling $91.4 million were awarded by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) to Caribbean Medical Supplies.
These contracts did not go through a competitive process. According to the Auditor General, these contracts were single-sourced. While attached documentation states that the supplier was the authorised distributor for the goods, it could not be ascertained whether they had the exclusive rights.
In light of this, the Auditor General noted he could not determine whether there were other suppliers that the Ministry could have used to source the goods. Dr Anthony noted that, “The Ministry was guilty of single sourcing! Single sourcing can lead to higher prices for the items because the vendor has a monopoly. How much extra has been paid? Conservative estimates show that it has been in the millions.”
“There are other flagrant breaches of the procurement law, such as contracts valued at $278.5 million awarded without bid security. And that can be found in the Auditor General report. There was another case of single sourcing of drugs worth $104 million. But this one has a twist. Six contracts were awarded without the approval of the NPTAB. The tender board was asked to rubber stamp the transaction after supplies were delivered”, he further stated.
The MP also cited cases of contract splitting and mismanagement of projects, such as the construction of the Public Health Ministry headquarters. Here he referenced the Auditor General’s report on the project being delayed.
Dr Anthony also condemned what he deemed a “failed system” and noted that in the three years since the coalition Government took office, drug shortages at Guyana’s medical institutions, coupled with several other pressing matters, have become a norm.
“Anyone who has recently utilised the health system can attest to its failings! Long waiting times at the outpatient clinics (and) longer waiting times for surgery. Unavailability of diagnostic tests; constant shortages of drugs have plagued the system!”
“As if this is not enough, admission to the [Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation] GPHC is like a lottery. Patients have to hope that when they get sick and go there, there is a bed that is available. In some cases, people have to wait for days on end to get a bed,” Anthony stated in a speech that was at times accompanied by remonstrations from the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, against Government Ministers who tried to shout him down.
Further, Dr Anthony noted that Government recently announced that a shortage of drug resistant tuberculosis (TB) medication has since been fixed. However, he noted that the Government failed to explain how such a shortage came about in the first place.
“Yesterday Minister (within the Public Health Ministry, Dr Karen) Cummings confirmed the (reports). But what she did not tell us was the reason why we have multiple drug resistant TB drugs in Guyana.”
“The experts would tell you that it develops because of programme failure… because they have been out of critical drugs and inadequate monitoring, poor compliance and patient poverty… Many of these patients are too ill to work and with the paltry sum set aside for public assistance, it is hardly enough for them to survive.”
Government in a statement after procuring the drugs had blamed the shortage on a delay, revealing that the said drugs are sourced from South Korea, Japan India and Cyprus, through the Global Drug Facility.