A Trinidad-based company should be banned from tendering for drugs in Guyana, and several top officials of Guyana’s Ministry of Health should either be removed or fired, a recent probe into the procurement of medical supplies has recommended.
Retired Assistant Police Commissioner, Winston Cosbert states in his report that Ministry of Health employee, Kendazie Aaron should be fired from her job. He says she admitted under oath that she had spoken with Edwin Mc Koon of Western Scientific Company of Trinidad and Tobago.
“It is evident from the evidence that Ms Aaron was conspiring with Mr. Mc Koon to gain insider information that obviously would have been used to his advantage over his competitors,” states Cosbert in the report prepared for the Ministry of the Presidency.
Further, Cosbert- a well-known former detective at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID)- found that Mc Koon had visited the Ministry of Health’s Materials Management Unit’s Supervisor, Mortez Lindore on several occasions and enquired about bids that were not made public.
The one-man Board of Inquiry also recommends that legal advice be sought to review contracts awarded to Mc Koon. Mc Koon has been accused of using to his advantage insider information that had been allegedly provided by Aaron.
Noting that Mc Koon’s refusal and non-cooperation with the Board of Inquiry leaves several assumptions, Cosbert said “it is highly recommended that Mr. Mc Koon be debarred from future tenders.”
Disclosure of the recommendation that Guyana should bar Mc Koon from future tenders came one day after news broke that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) declared Western Scientific ineligible to be awarded and participate in any IDB-financed contracts from March 31, 2016 to October 15, 2020 because of “fraudulent practices.”
The Retired Assistant Commissioner additionally recommended that legal advice be sought with regards to the contracts that had been awarded to Mc Koon.
With regards to the Ministry of Public Health’s Permanent Secretary, Trevor Thomas, the Board said he should be removed from that ministry due to his “inability to effectively carry out the mandate of the ministry and that his testimony bordered on lying.” “The Permanent Secretary was willfully deceptive in his testimony when questioned by the Board of Inquiry and he made inconsistent and deceptive statements during his testimony. The board finds that the inconsistencies were sufficiently material to affect the truthfulness and accuracy of his testimony.”
In the proposed shake-up, the probe says disciplinary action for breach or neglect in the performance of duties should be taken against Deputy Permanent Secretary, Colette Adams for authorizing advance payment on a contract without first determining the factual reason. .
While Principal Personnel Officer, Chetwin Felix, the Board of Inquiry found, should be trained in personnel and Office Procedures. It was found that Felix’s demeanor was adversarial and he was very evasive with questions put to him.
Cosbert suggested that Manager at the Ministry of Public Health, Sandra Singh’s contract should not be renewed because she paid a supplier without first seeing the contract for the transaction. “Being an experienced person in that particular department, it was prudent for her to first advice the Deputy Permanent Secretary Ms Colette Adams or object to such an irregular practice given the fact that Ms Singh is acquainted with the Government Financial Regulations”
Other recommendations include:
- Transfer the current staff at the Material Management Unit to a department suitable for their qualification and skills and alternatively be trained in the area of procurement
- Immediately fill the positions at the Materials Management Unit with personnel who have required qualifications and skills set given the fact that the department deals with multimillion dollar contracts
- Preliminary testing on pharmaceuticals received at the Supply Chain Management Unit to ensure the efficacy of the pharmaceuticals received
- A comprehensive audit be conducted at the Supply Chain Management Complex and Materials Management Unit stores.
- The Ministry of Health should review its security arrangement. It was found that the present security firm is negligent in the performance of their duties. No records are kept for vehicles and good entering or leaving the various locations.
- The Guyana government should examine the remuneration package for pharmacists to adequately fill the existing vacancies within the Ministry of Public Health
- The Permanent Secretaries of the various ministries should not be involved in the evaluating committee for his/her ministry.
- All pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical suppliers be registered with the Food and Drugs Department ; this is a part of the criteria in the bidding document.
- The Food and Drugs Act should be amended to include blood, blood products, medical devices improvement of storage to cover certain classes of drugs.