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New GPC’s latest US$6m contract under legal review as Health Ministry addresses sole-sourcing

Public Health Minister George Norton

by Zena Henry

The latest contract signed between the Government of Guyana and the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC) has been sent to Attorney General Basil Williams for legal review.

That has occurred as the Health Ministry moves ahead to erase the previous sole-sourcing apparatus that has afforded the pharmaceutical company intense edge over its competitors.

Health Minister George Norton told Demerara Waves that New GPC and the former government would have entered into a US$6m contract for the procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies some 10 days before the recently held General and Regional elections. That contract is expected to come to an end by September.

So far, New GPC has collected one third of that money, but the minister said he was surprised to learn that the contract  stated that “in no uncertain terms 100 percent must be paid up front.” He said efforts were being made to have all the money paid to the company by cheque, but the financial staff at the Health Ministry refused to make out such a large payment via cheque. He understood that the staff members were being pressured by the ministry’s recently sent on leave Permanent Secretary (PS), Leslie Cadogan to make the full payment.

Minister Norton reiterated that the new government is not satisfied with this procurement setup and is currently reviewing the system while audits are ongoing at the ministry. He said that as investigations continued, it has been confirmed that the New GPC had at least 80 percent of the sourcing for medical commodities.

He explained too that as PS,Cadogan played a significant role in what was occurring at the ministry; “and from the investigation and the little that we have all was not well for him.” He doubted that the PS would be returning from leave.

Other reports coming in, the minister continued, pertain to financial misappropriation and other wrongdoings. He said when complaints were made to those in authority persons became involved and took part in the improprieties. He said the contracts of these persons would be looked at with a view of letting them go.

Outside of that the Minister said that Monday last, he met with representatives of foreign and local companies already coming forward to provide service in the procurement of medical supplies. He said that process has been ongoing as “some companies seemed just to be waiting for the opportunity of a leveled playing field.” 

The legal review of the New GPC contract will help the ministry to determine the way forward with the company at the centre of the sole-sourcing issue.