GPHC management violated law on GYD$600 million drug procurement; Public Health Minister did no wrong

Last Updated on Friday, 21 July 2017, 19:14 by Denis Chabrol

Chairman of the GPHC’s Board of Directors Kesaundra Alves and Allan Johnson.

The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) on Friday said it would rely on the outcome of a probe by the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) into the purchase of GYD$632 million worth of drugs, even as it said its own investigation revealed that the hospital’s management allegedly violated a decision to follow the legal process of going through the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).

“The Board was shocked and disappointed to learn that GPHC had breached the law,” the institution said in a statement on Friday.

According to the hospital statement, former Acting Chief Executive Officer of GPHC Mr Allan Johnson wrote NPTAB seeking approval for the contracts after GPHC had begun to receive pharmaceuticals from the suppliers.

The GPHC said none of the information received by the Board revealed that the Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence “ever gave instructions to GPHC officials to bypass any procurement procedures or laws.”

The GPHC said the Procurement Act provides that any contract beyond the sum of GYD$15 million must go through NPTAB which then forwards it to Cabinet for review and approval.  New GPC supplied GYD$20,888,610, Health2000 supplied GYD$2,923,920, and Chirosyn Discovery supplied GYD$2,138,925 worth of pharmaceuticals “under the same flawed procurement process.”

Minister of Health, Volda Lawrence

Despite its own findings, the GPHC said it its Board. management and staff  have been fully cooperating with the PPC in their ongoing investigation and would rely on the findings of that constitutional body. “We wish to defer to the report of the PPC in relation to this matter since that body has the remit and required expertise to conduct a thorough investigation.  Further, the PPC has wider jurisdiction to interview all parties involved,” the GPHC said in a statement.

The hospital said restated that the shortage was due a number of reasons such as the underestimation and late quantification of drugs; the annulment of a tender because a GPHC Finance Department employee tampered with a tender document; and the failure of some local suppliers to honour their 2016 contracts.

In its latest public comment on this issue, the GPHC blamed its then Chief Executive Officer, Johnson for the situation saying that ultimately he was responsible for the health provider. “The Board believes that the senior staff of the Finance Department had an ethical and professional duty to properly advise Mr. Johnson since this matter was within their realm of expertise. Mr. Johnson had been known to trust and depend on his officers to do the right thing and it is regrettable that they failed him in this instance. However, ultimately the power was within Mr. Johnson’s judgment and signature,” the hospital said.

Johnson was fired on June 8, 2017.

The GPHC said on February 3, 2017, the Minister of Public Health held a meeting with Johnson and senior staff of the Finance and Pharmacy Departments of GPHC and “compelled them to immediately devise a plan of action to alleviate the drug shortage as quickly as possible.”

The staff of GPHC reported that Lawrence requested that the hospital take into consideration Pan American Health Organisation’s (PAHO) emergency mechanism to supply pharmaceuticals, and also check with Materials Management Unit (MMU) of the Ministry of Public Health to ascertain whether they had any of the required drugs in stock. Only after that, the hospital said a determination could be made about which drugs the hospital would need to procure from suppliers.

At a subsequent meeting that day, the Minister of Public Health reportedly listened to a plan of action developed and presented by the GPHC Finance Director which included determining availability of drugs from the Pan American Health Organisation, Materials Management Unit and local suppliers; obtaining quotations from suppliers; sending an evaluation report to NPTAB for approval, then followed by the award of tender. However, GPHC did not follow its stated plan of action.

The Board said it was also unacceptable that when the Board was installed and held its first meeting on February 22, 2017, Mr. Johnson failed to disclose this serious matter to the newly-installed members.