Last Updated on Thursday, 8 September 2016, 17:45 by Denis Chabrol
In the face of threats of legal action challenging a deal to rent a pharmaceutical bond from a city businessman’s company, the Guyana government on Thursday caved into widespread public criticism and deemed it “undesirable” and said it was searching for a new facility.
“Cabinet was engaged in full and thorough discussions on the issue of the storage of government pharmaceuticals at the privately owned Sussex Street facility. Cabinet has concluded that the arrangement was undoubtedly undesirable,” the administration said in a carefully worded statement.
The announcement and assurances by government of transparency came days after former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran and a private citizen, Majeed Hussain are threatening to take legal action to quash the transaction between the Ministry of Health and Linden Holdings Inc; a company whose principals include Singh. Hussain wants to mount a High Court challenge against the deal on grounds that the monthly rent is unreasonable, the premises is unsuitable for a pharmaceutical bond, the Procurement Act has been violated because the contract has been sole-sourced.
A well-placed source said labelling the rental of the facility at 29 Sussex Street, Albouystown, Georgetown from Lawrence “Larry” Singh’s Linden Holdings Inc. effectively lays the groundwork for the three-year contract to be renegotiated. In fact, under the heading of Review and Re-negotiations, the government said it was currently inspecting other sites for lease or rental.
“Specifically, Cabinet explored a range of options including shortening the lease period for the rental of the Sussex Street facility while expediting the search for another facility. Government agrees to secure its own pharmaceuticals storage facility and is inspecting suitable sites.
The options of purchasing, constructing or leasing will also be explored. However, the conditions for the storage facility to be located within close proximity of the Georgetown port and be easily accessible remain applicable,” said the administration in a statement.
The David Granger-led coalition administration also promised to conduct its affairs transparently in the future. “Further, the Government recommits itself to managing the affairs of the state in a transparent and accountable manner and to respect public opinion at all times,” the government said in a statement issued through the Prime Minister’s office.
Government further said that though it has, out of necessity, taken some time to arrive at these decisions, Cabinet is satisfied that significant advances have been made on this matter and when the full menu of actions is completed, the best arrangement, in the interest of the people of Guyana, will be concluded.
Cabinet says it notes that the Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton has taken responsibility for the imbroglio and has publicly expressed regrets over the controversy that the rental of the Sussex Street bond has engendered. Assurances by government that it recommits itself to managing the affairs of the state in a transparent and accountable manner and to respect public opinion at all times comes at a time when many of its supporters have been expressing grave concern and disappointment even to the extent that they believe that the way the APNU+AFC coalition has been managing the country mirrors the now opposition PPPC that it had critcized harshly for more than 20 years.
Still in the area of accountability, Cabinet further recommitted itself to be vigilant with regard to all contracts and arrangements and assure the people of Guyana that efforts will continue to strengthen the delivery of health care services which, for too long, have been held hostage by close friends and cronies of the previous administration.
The Cabinet acknowledged the frank expression of views by a wide cross section of the Guyanese society which it respects as vital to true participatory and inclusionary democracy.
Earlier Thursday, Minister of State Joseph Harmon said he did not know who had informed Larry Singh,a People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) member that government was interested in renting a pharmaceutical bond. The bond is being rented for GYD$12.5 million monthly. The PNCR is the largest partner in the APNU+AFC coalition-led administration.
Singh, currently an arms and ammunition supplier to Guyana’s security sector, was also a key principal in Tropical Airways that had left more than 100 persons stranded here after flights between Georgetown and New York had been halted abruptly and the airline folded.