Secret Cabinet missive exposes another drug scandal

…as Govt bypasses Tender Board to handpick ANSA McAL for 5M purchase

Despite pronouncements that Government breached the laws of Guyana to award a $605 million drug contract to one of its corporate supporters, the Administration has again sidelined the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) to once again sole source in excess of half a billion dollars in drugs from ANSA McAL.

Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence

The leaked secret Cabinet document outlines that the sub-committee considered and approved the procurement of emergency pharmaceuticals to the tune of $515.2 million.
The sole sourcing practice was a strategy vehemently railed against by the then Opposition, now governing coalition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC).
The request to bypass NPTAB was submitted by Finance Minister Winston Jordan and seeks to waive the competitive bidding and evaluation process in favour of sole sourcing the emergency supplies from ANSA McAL.
The award of the contract is reminiscent of a similar contract that was handed to ANSA McAL to the tune of $605 million, for which the Public Procurement Commission had launched an investigation and had found that there were breaches of Guyana’s procurement laws in order to facilitate the purchase.
ANSA McAL is the company that had built a multimillion-dollar arch, which was donated to the APNU/AFC Administration and subsequently erected on the East Coast Demerara (ECD) Highway.
The request was approved on Monday last and bears the signature of the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon and the decision circulated to the Ministers of Finance and Public Health.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon

While the laws of Guyana do provide for the single sourcing of goods and services, these are obtained under special circumstances as spelled out in the Procurement Act.
According to that legislative instrument, “The procuring entity may engage in single-source procurement when – (a) the goods or construction are available only from a particular
supplier or contractor, or a particular supplier or contractor has exclusive rights with respect to the goods or construction, and no reasonable alternative or substitute exists; (b) the services, by reason of their highly complex or specialised nature, are available from only one source”.
Single sourcing from a supplier is also permitted in the event of a catastrophic incident and there is an urgent need for the goods, services or construction, making it impractical to use other methods of procurement because of the time involved in using those methods.
Government this past year had allocated in its Budget some $4.8 billion for the procurement of drugs, but of that amount $4.4 billion was spent by the Administration using handpicked suppliers, including the owner of the controversial Sussex Street ‘drug bond’.
The investigation by the Public Procurement Commission had found that procurement laws had been broken.
Chairperson Carol Corbin, at the time, had said: “As everyone noted, if the entity was supposed to go to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board and they did not do that, then the law was broken. So, yes, it was found that laws were broken.”
That report has since been submitted to the National Assembly, but the nation will have to await its return from its annual recess next month before having access to the findings.
Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence had come under intense public scrutiny when it was discovered that she was integral in pushing for the purchase of the supplies using the sole sourcing method.
She had subsequently denied any involvement in the drug purchase arrangement, but not before a missive was released by that Ministry, which indicated that it was the Public Health Minister who wanted to fast track the drug purchase by seeking to bypass the NPTAB.

Drug purchases by and for the nation’s premier health institutions had come under intense scrutiny earlier this year when probity by the political Opposition had found glaring discrepancies and breaches of the laws of Guyana.
It was discovered that of the total $8.5 billion allocated to the entity for the year, employment costs account for $3.1 billion; capital expenditure has been budgeted at $527 million; dietary and meals at $537 million; and other purchases, such as cleaning supplies and security, have been budgeted at $579 million.
This meant $2.6 billion was left for the year for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies.
As such, with $2 billion of that money already spent in the first two months of the year — representing some 77 per cent of the total allocation for the year — Government was undoubtedly pegged to be heading to the coffers for more money.
Opposition Member of Parliament, Bishop Juan Edghill, in what can now be termed as a clairvoyant moment, had predicted “raping of the treasury will take place” during the August recess, and the full amount would not be made known until October when Government is made to lay a Supplementary Financial Paper in the National Assembly, detailing the expenditure.
Parliament is currently in recess and will resume on October 8.
It was discovered that more than 90 per cent of the drugs purchases made this past year was done on an emergency basis.
“Are we manufacturing emergencies to avoid proper procurement…this manipulating of the system must stop!” Edghill declared.