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In a brazen and unsubstantiated, wicked editorial, Kaieteur News accused the PPP government of uncontrolled corruption, accusing the Irfaan Ali-led PPP government of doing the exact things they opposed the APNU/AFC government for. Kaieteur News accused the government of betraying the people’s trust. They attempted to provide two examples of the corruption that caused them to be aggrieved. In so doing, Kaieteur News lowered itself to even the lowest of standards they have set for themselves.
The examples they cited are from the Auditor General’s Report 2021. Neither of the two examples they cited was even in the slightest way referred to by the Auditor General as questionable transactions. Both examples were statements for information.
First, the Report listed all the suppliers for medicines and medical supplies for 2021. One large local company had contracts amounting to over 50% of the total procurement for medicines and medical supplies. The Kaieteur News failed to mention that the Auditor General simply listed all the suppliers, with no assertion that anyone obtained any contract through a breach of the procurement laws. The specific company that Kaieteur News identified earned contracts to supply medicines and medical supplies after winning publicly advertised tenders.
In all cases, the company earned contracts after submitting winning bids to the NPTAB. The Auditor General never inferred that any of the contracts obtained by any one of the suppliers was obtained through any illegitimate procedure or any violation of the procurement laws of Guyana. The reference to the local company in the Report had nothing to do with any breach; it merely totalled the amount expended in 2021 and gave a breakdown of who was given contracts to supply medicines and medical supplies. None of the contracts, except for the PAHO contract, was a sole-sourced contract.
The second example from the Auditor General Report 2021 that Kaieteur News highlighted as evidence for its sweeping allegation of corruption against the PPP government, and, specifically the MOH, is that $478M of medicines and medical supplies were not delivered in 2021. The Auditor General Report 2021 did not cite this as an example of corruption. The Report highlighted that that amount still had to be delivered and that the [Ministry of Health] MOH provided explanations for the non-delivery of the goods.
Even Kaieteur News had to admit that the explanations are logical and reflected the global reality. Throughout 2021 and 2022, medicines and medical supplies, like other goods, suffered from global shortages and long delays in transportation (logistical delays). This is not a Guyana problem, nor has it been caused by the PPP government. In addition, as pointed out by the Auditor General Report 2021, the Ministry’s 2021 procurement included COVID-19 supplies that would have been needed in 2022 and, therefore, were subjected to delayed or “staggered” delivery.
But Kaieteur News decided that they can play magic with the Auditor General’s Report and turned a simple list of suppliers and an explanation of why delivery of some supplies was staggered into a corruption charge. They admitted this much in their editorial when they stated that their only concern is that one supplier earned contracts for more than 50% of the sums expended in 2021.
While admitting that the company might have won these contracts because they have more capacity and may be more efficient than other suppliers, Kaieteur News decided to give more weight to any possibility that the company may have won contracts because of “reach and influence”. In other words, the company may have won contracts because of bribery. Kaieteur News simply decided to ignore that these were public tenders that were won through free, fair and transparent processes which the Auditor General never questioned.
The MOH in August 2020 inherited a system steeped in sole sourcing, such as the HBD contract, resulting from a rejected restricted tender process in which only invited bidders were allowed to tender and then after disqualifying all of them, reinvited each to resubmit new tenders and accepted the highest offer. For example, in that 2017 process, HBD’s price for Neulasta was $205,675, compared to the $22,429 submitted by another company. Such total violation of the procurement laws does not happen at this time.
In addition, the MOH inherited a system in which suppliers routinely failed to supply medicines and supplies they were fully paid for. For example, at the end of 2018, more than $346M worth of medicines from contracts in 2015/2016 were not delivered. There are many examples of medicines and medical supplies that are still owing from 2016/2017.
The MOH has tried to ensure that all procurement is through public tender. In cases where sole sourcing is the only credible procedure available, it is used, but only after obtaining NPTAB approval. A case in point is the procurement of vaccines. When Sinopharm vaccines were procured from Sinopharm, it was a direct purchase from Sinopharm. When Roche COVID-19 reagents were purchased for the PCR COVID-19 test, it was bought directly from the Roche-licensed agent.
If the two examples Kaieteur News cited are the reasons for Kaieteur News to accuse the Irfaan Ali-led PPP government or the Frank Anthony-led MOH of corruption, Kaieteur News failed miserably to back up its claim. For a News entity to brazenly paint the government as corrupt to the core, it certainly appeared as if it was looking for a needle in a haystack. Not finding any credible example to make its case, it twisted the words of the Auditor General to raise the possibility that all may not be what they appeared to be. This is “gutter-journalism” and Kaieteur News ought to be ashamed of itself.
Public Relations/Health Promotion Unit
Ministry of Health
Lot 1 Brickdam.