PPP wants proof decision to award came from GPHC Board

5M ANSA McAL “emergency” contract

…accuses Lawrence of “ministerial interference”

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has made a forceful call to the governing board of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) for it to provide information, by way of minutes of its meeting, to show who gave the go-ahead for the $605 million medical supplies contract to ANSA McAL.

PPP Member of Parliament, Bishop Juan Edghill

The call was made on Monday by PPP Member of Parliament (MP) Bishop Juan Edghill, who said that should the minutes show that the order was given by Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence, then it would only prove that the new Minister, who he said knew much about the pros and cons of procurement, had overstepped her boundaries.
“This cannot be right; everybody has cried out against it,” Edghill told a news conference on Monday. “If there is a crisis at the GPHC, it is not for the Minister to intervene, it is the Board. So if this is not an act of corruption, I call on the Chairman of the Board to make available the minutes of the meeting where this was disclosed to them and what was disclosed to them to act in remedying the emergency situation.”

Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence

Edghill said the situation was a case where a political decision, after which it would seem that the officer of the tender board was expected to comply administratively to facilitate “an improper transaction”.
He said the GPHC has a board that has responsibility for the affairs of the hospital.
Meanwhile, Edghill claimed that the Public Health Ministry has pumped a considerable amount of money into ANSA McAL, which was in fact purchasing the items from the very source Government moved away from, resulting in much higher charges to the public purse. He explained, for instance, that the 200mg ibuprofen pill, which was before bought from the NEW GPC INC for $1.55 each, with a procurement of 154,000 had cost some $238,700. The same 200mg ibuprofen he said, now being bought from ANSA McAL at $6 each and with a procurement of 270,000 is costing Government $1.62 million. According to Edghill, this allows ANSA McAL to purchase the tablets from the NEW GPC at $1.55 and sell to the GPHC for $6, “as against the lowest responsive bidder supplying to the entity and in the long run preserving the public purse”.
The same was done with the drug Metformin 500mg, supplied by the NEW GPC for $2.5 each and from ANSA McAL for $8.
“It, therefore, means that if you call ANSA McAL and say I need these drugs urgently, all ANSA McAL has to do is go to NEW GPC and buy it,” Edghill said.
He recalled that Minister Lawrence had said that it was only ANSA McAL which would have been able to provide the drugs with the level of immediacy that was required.
“How she knew what NEW GPC stock is? How she knew what ANSA McAL stock is? What method was used to determine that?” Edghill questioned.
He related that the Minister and the Georgetown Public Hospital were procuring items for four and eight times higher than what it would cost from other suppliers, and noted that had they gone the way of prequalification, or even public tender in an emergency, the public purse would have been saved billions of dollars.
According to Edghill, this is not a coincidence, merely because of the person involved. He said Minister Lawrence was no stranger to procurement and the concerns of the Auditor General as it relates to sole sourcing.
“She chaired the committee and was a high-ranking member of the previous PAC [Public Accounts Committee], even while it was being chaired by now Minister (of Foreign Affairs) Carl Greenidge…She’s knowledgeable: she knows the Procurement Act; she knows the regulation and system and then you’re going to make a smokescreen to talk about how bad the staff is, how the system has been penetrated? If there is corrupt staff in the system, why have they not been terminated?” he questioned.
Earlier this month, the media broke the story about the management of the Georgetown Public Hospital deliberating creating an emergency situation in order to sole-source drugs from its preferred supplier. Within the last four months, the Public Hospital has cancelled or delayed four of its five public tenders, thereby creating a situation wherein there was a massive shortage of pharmaceuticals. In a letter dated February 28, 2017, GPHC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Allan Johnson thanked the Public Health Minister for authorising the procurement of medical supplies from ANSA McAL to the tune of $605,962,200, even though local firms could have supplied the same quantity and quality of drugs at better prices.
Questions are now being raised regarding why local firms which could have supplied the pharmaceuticals at cheaper prices had been sidelined. It raises the issue of motive and possible corruption, which is reminiscent of the earlier decision to rent an at-the-time  non-existent pharma warehouse.