by Zena Henry
Government is actively considering moves to address the one-man show involved in the procurement of medical drugs, and is seeking the assistance of financial institutions to ensure a leveled playing field for other bidders.
Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman explained Wednesday July 15, government’s worry that the sourcing mechanism under the former Administration leaves room for unscrupulous activities.
He made specific reference to the sole-sourcing mechanism that allowed the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (New GPC) to import billions of dollars worth of pharmaceuticals without having to go to through the tender process.
Trotman said that the government was “actively considering” ways to get other bidders involved because to prevent one agency from continuing to supply drugs. While the New GPC would still be allowed to bid like other bidders and would receive contracts if they win, Trotman noted government’s concern that the entity might be the only qualifying bidder. This is because New GPC is a larger, more established company with more resources at its disposal.
Trotman said, however, “…we can’t be single sourcing for this vital commodity… that one person or one agency only supplies it.” He said, “It is a concern because it leaves room for monopoly, it leaves room for price fixing, or manipulation or even corruption.”
The Governance Minister noted that it is government’s duty to facilitate other bidders who might need assistance to ensure that they have an equal and fair chance at winning bids. He said “In this regard we of course will work with the members of the financial sector; banks and others to see if they will be willing to give some concessionary rates or advance payments to help achieve that result.”
Trotman said that no transparent economy could have one source for such a “critical and costly commodity” such as drugs for the national health sector. However, that is what was taking place for several years under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government where the New GPC was given preference in sourcing and distributing the country’s medical drugs.
Complaints were coming in from other drug suppliers that the New GPC prequalification deal with government was inconveniencing their operations. Outside of that, the issue of drug wastage and corruption was of a bigger concern for stakeholders, especially when it was publicized that the New GPC was allegedly price gouging when evidence of receipts was made public. Allegations of expired drugs worth billions being tossed out were also raised.
Because of the sole-sourcing, the Auditor General’s reported presented in 2013 said that New GPC had received some US$15M in drug contracts dating back to 2010. There was also some concern about how Dr. Rangisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop even acquired the New GPC.
Identified as a close associate of then president Bharrat Jagdeo, it was explained that he purchased the then Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC) in percentages at a reduced price, on Cabinet’s approval.