ANSA McAL sole sourcingA worrying trend is developing within the coalition Administration whereby the tender boards across the country are being blatantly bypassed if desired results are not yielded, according to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.“If the tenders don’t yield the results that they want, they keep annulling the tender,” Jagdeo said he has observed in a number of cases – most recently the scandal at the Georgetown Public Hospital where a multimillion-dollar contract for drug procurement was given to ANSA McAL. Jagdeo, during a press conference at Freedom House on Tuesday, noted his concern that the Georgetown Public Hospital cancelled about four tenders within the past few months in a move, which he strongly believed was carried out to create an emergency shortage of pharmaceuticals so that a $606 million contract could be awarded to its preferred supplier, ANSA McAL.“It’s a growing pattern. We have seen it in the contract for Sheriff Street, water treatment plants, GPL meters…if that’s the case, then we should disband our tender boards,” he reasoned as he questioned why the substantive minister made no enquiries as to why these tenders were consistently cancelled.Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence is also being called out to reveal the identities of the delinquent contractors she is blaming for the emergency drug shortage situation at the Georgetown Public Hospital.According to Lawrence, the shortage arose at the Public Hospital because some suppliers who were awarded contracts failed in certain ways to deliver the pharmaceuticals.Jagdeo is urging that the Government make these names available to the public, as well as outline how these individuals received the contracts in the first place.He further presumed that if the contracts were awarded through the legitimate channels, able and equipped companies would have been given the task of supplying the Public Hospital with drugs.The Opposition Leader argued that many of the delinquent contractors received the contracts directly, without proper screening to determine their capability of providing the pharmaceuticals.The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary also questioned why the Board of the Georgetown Hospital decided to go directly to ANSA McAL to supply the pharmaceuticals and how did they conclude that other firms were incapable of supplying same.He even questioned if the Public Health Minister had a hand in this whole controversy by passing directions for ANSA McAL to be given the contract. Earlier this week, Lawrence confirmed that ANSA McAL was granted the $606 million contract to “fast track” the supplies of drugs to the Georgetown Public Hospital. The Minister explained that as a result of a drug shortage crisis at the Georgetown Public Hospital, she met with public health officials to ensure an adequate supply of drugs was immediately made available to address the emergency.Minister Lawrence explained that after meeting with the officials, she sought to “fast-track” the procurement of the drugs to minimise the negative effects on patients as a result of the shortages.“This influenced the decision to seek the green light from the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) for ANSA McAL to supply drugs and pharmaceuticals to the tune of some $606 million,” she stated.She further added that that ANSA McAL had donated four refrigerators to the Georgetown Hospital.She also disclosed that NEW GPC, Health 2000 and Chirosyn Discovery had each received contracts to supply some of the emergency drugs. Lawrence explained that other companies were not part of the process, because investigations were ongoing into the late/non-delivery of critical drugs which they were contracted to procure for Georgetown Hospital during 2016.Disciplinary actionsCommenting on the development, President David Granger had said that the matter could be resolved at the level of the Finance and Public Health Ministries, as well as the Georgetown Hospital, so that disciplinary actions could be taken against persons at fault.“If there is some procedural irregularity, that (situation) can be rectified; and if it is found that somebody is at fault; well, there can be disciplinary actions,” he told reporters on the televised programme “The Public Interest”, which aired last Friday.Nevertheless, President Granger has insisted that while it was not the policy of his Government to procure drugs through sole sourcing, there was a crisis in which drugs that were supposed to be supplied since last year were delayed for whatever reason, and actions had to be taken to remedy the situation.PrequalificationsThe Government had advanced new mechanisms that changed the way drugs were procured and supplied in the country, in essence decentralising the acquisition and dissemination of medical equipment and drugs to the various Regions. It also dissolved the prequalification procedure to give companies that do not qualify to the international prescribed standard and consequent supply chain of prequalification an opportunity to supply drugs.The former Administration was criticised for its position of maintaining the prequalification criteria, because critics felt favouritism was at play when some local prequalified companies received contracts in Guyana.However, the former Administration had only put those mechanisms, which were modelled after procurement procedures for international organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO); United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), etc, to ensure that quality drugs were steadily available for mass public consumption at competitive world market prices. In the absence of such mechanisms, invariably, there would be shortages of drugs, since there were no direct established supply chains with companies that are prequalified to deliver the requisite drugs needed.