Ministerial team ordered to probe pharmaceutical bond rental, related issues

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 August 2016, 20:30 by Denis Chabrol

In the wake of serious concerns being raised about a deal to store pharmaceuticals for the public health sector at a bond being rented from a city businessman, government on Wednesday announced that a special ministerial team has been established to examine a range of issues.

“The Sub-Committee met today (Wednesday), at the Office of the Prime Minister and was provided with an extensive and detailed brief with regard to the issues, needs and challenges related to the storage of medicine and medical supplies,” the Ministry of the Presidency said in a statement.

President David Granger established the committee after Monday’s brouhaha at the National Assembly’s Committee of Supply during a request for approval of more than GYD$30 million  that have been already paid to Lawrence “Larry” Singh for rental of a bond from July, 2016.

Singh purchased the building at Lot 29 Sussex Street, Albouystown, Georgetown and has since begun fitting it store government’s pharmaceuticals for the next three years. Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo accused government of front-loading Singh’s purchase and equipping of the building for rental at GYD$12.5 million per month. Singh purchased the building from Dennis Shafiq Mohamed at a cost of GYD$25 million on March 4, 2016 and subsequently leased it to Linden Holdings Inc; a company of which he is one three directors.

Public Health Minister, Dr. George Norton on Wednesday told Demerara Waves Online News that government decided to speedily rent Singh’s bond after New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (NGPC) began renting its bond for GYD$19 million per month following a decision by the  coalition administration to cease purchasing supplies from New GPC as a prequalified supplier and instead open up the process to competitive bidding.

Norton hopes that the money that would be saved from the new deal will eventually go towards government constructing its own bond. He denied that the deal with Singh was a sweetheart package.

The sub-committee is being chaired by Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Mr. Raphael Trotman and other members are Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon.

The Ministry of the Presidency said Trotman and Health Minister Dr. Norton, who has made himself available to the Sub-Committee for the purposes of providing information and clarifications, subsequently conducted extensive inspection tours of both the Sussex Street, Georgetown facility along with the Ministry of Public Health Supplies Chain Management Complex at Diamond on the East Bank of Demerara.

The Sub-Committee is in the process of preparing an initial report and a further statement will be presented at the post-Cabinet Media Briefing on Thursday, August 11.