Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence, has been shielded from any blame in relation to the emergency purchase of $632 million worth of drugs by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, according to the first-ever report tabled in the National Assembly by the Public Procurement Commission.
Laid in the National Assembly on Thursday, the report noted that the Minister cannot be blamed for any breach of the law, although she authorized the fast-tracking of the purchase.
The PPC said the Minister was responding to an existing shortage of drugs and was made aware of the emergency tender, thereby instructing the GPHC to fast-track the procurement of emergency drugs.
“The PPC was not presented with any information which indicated that the Minister instructed the GPHC to breach the Procurement Act,” the report noted.
In fact, the PPC said in its report that approval to fast track does not translate to approval to bypass the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board.
“The GPHC was asked to devise a plan to fast-track the emergency drugs and they provided a plan that reflected a delivery period of two weeks for the drugs. The Minister’s approval related to her instruction for them to present a plan as to how they could bring emergency drugs in the shortest possible time. The sole source method that they ultimately adopted was the fastest means of achieving this because it avoids a tender and evaluation process,” the report said.
The PPC said it was not presented with any information which indicated that the Minister was informed by the GPHC officials that they made the award to the suppliers without seeking the approval of NPTAB and Cabinet.
“The Minister had assigned Mr. O’Neil Atkins to the GPHC team specifically to identify the emergency drugs needed and not to select the contract suppliers. The GPHC officials ultimately made the decision to engage the four suppliers who were awarded contracts to supply the hospital with drugs,” it added.
Disciplinary action was not recommended to be taken against any staff of the GPHC but the Chief Executive Officer at the time, Allan Johnson, was fired by the Board, following two embarrassing appearances before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee.