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Revised drug procurement process for Cabinet

New GPC

by Zena Henry

Government appears set to scrap the prequalification system for the procurement of drugs and put a system in place for competitive bidding, according to Public Health Minister Dr. George Norton.

He said a revised version of the currently “controversial” medical drug procurement process is likely to be with Cabinet at the government’s next sitting Tuesday, August 4, 2015. He said his ministry was closer to providing Cabinet with the identified aspects of the process to be changed.

The minister in an interview with Demerara Waves said that a revised process of procurement was submitted to Cabinet but the government body requested the identification of the specific changes to be made rather than seeing the “whole big document.”

“We are in the process of now identifying the changes we recommend.” Norton said that there is an established procurement process but, “…over the years things were changed to suit a particular company.”

He was at the time talking about the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC) which the government, even in opposition insisted, had an unfair advantage over other bidders for medical drugs and supplies. The former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration was accused of handing the lions share to the pharmaceutical company through Cabinet’s prequalified “no objection” authority.  

“The changes that were made to the procedure would have been concerned only with that particular issue,” Norton confirmed. “What we are going to is what we refer to as ‘open competitive bidding’.”

“That means taking it to the procurement board. It is as a result of the difficulty we had with that which existed under the former government. That is the reason for sending both the Permanent Secretary and the procurement officer on leave so we can change that.”

After Cabinet’s review of the revised procurement process the open bidding process will commence, Norton said.  

In the meantime, he noted that government is seeking to get back what is left of the US$6M, part of a drug procurement contract that was given to the New GPC a month before the General and Regional elections.  New GPC has collected has collected one third of the payment, but “We are going to see how best we can cut our losses,” said the minister.

He had told the news site that he sent the New GPC contract to Attorney General Basil Williams for legal review. The document is still with the minister, Norton reported.

Procurement of drugs is usually done through the National Tender and Procurement Board, but a prequalification clause with stiff qualifying regulations was established, with a Cabinet ‘no objection’ clause that came about without the Public Procurement Commission.

The establishment of this Commission was big on the government’s campaign trail and is part of the A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance for Change Commission (APNU+AFC) 100-day plan to be implemented.