…department to take legal action against defaultersThe Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-F&DD) will be moving against those suppliers who would have supplied institutions in the public health care system with unregistered drugs.According to the GA-F&DD Director, Marlon Cole, the department has received complaints from patients who have received unregistered drugs, and those complaints indicate that this is a widespread problem.“We have environmental officers in all the regions who are appointed Food and Drug Inspectors and carry out our mandate on our behalf. We have regional coverage there. We have persons that would go to the Customs Department and refer entries we would have an interest in. So we have some protection at ports,” he explained.Cole further explained that inspections are carried out at storage bonds and places where these drugs are distributed by the department’s own city inspectors. And then, of course, he noted the mechanisms in place for consumers to lodge complaints…for instance, in the case of wrong labelling.“We will be taking legal action against some importers who are knowingly and deliberately releasing and distributing unregistered drugs into the national health care system. We have been receiving complaints about drugs that are not safe and efficacious after they’ve been used, and we are heavily dependent on those reports emanating out of the health care system,” he explained.“In addition, we would be embarking on our pharmaceutical vigilance system in addition to doing some surveys,” Cole explained. “But the problem with unregistered drugs is widespread, and we’re tackling it in the same way we’re dealing with food.”DrugsLast year, the Public Health Ministry introduced a new system for procuring of drugs and medical supplies, with the aim of enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the drug supply chain in the country.This was accompanied by several changes in the bidding documents, which were intended to create a more level playing field among competitors. Following the massive shortage of drugs in the country, the then Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton, admitted that the change in the procurement system is probably the likely cause for the drug shortages being experienced.Previously, Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence had said that, in 2016 and 2017, several firms were awarded contracts to supply pharmaceuticals to the health sector, but failed to deliver.The International Pharmaceutical Agency (IPA) was one of those companies that failed to supply all of the drugs it was expected to deliver, because it was not qualified to import some specialised pharmaceuticals.In January 2016, IPA was awarded two contracts to supply the GPHC with pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. On one of the contracts — for $36.5 million — the company delivered only 80 per cent of the pharmaceuticals, because it was not qualified to supply the remainder.The remaining 20 per cent of drugs consisted of narcotics, including morphine, which required special certification for importation. It is understood that in order for a firm to import narcotics-type pharmaceuticals, it must be registered in order to be granted a licence.But the company was not registered to import those categories of drugs, and was therefore denied a licence by the GA-FDD.It has been argued that pre-qualification (a practice from which Government has moved away) could have prevented a company that is not registered to provide specialised drugs from getting the contract.
– wants to amend aspects of the ActChairman of the Integrity Commission, Kumar Duraisami, has stated that only some Members of Parliament (MP) have so far submitted their declarations to the Commission.Chairman of the Integrity Commission, Kumar Duraisami (middle) along with Commissioner Rosemary Benjamine-Noble and Secretary Amanda Jaisingh at Thursday’s press conferenceSpeaking at its first press briefing on Thursday to update the public on the work of the Commission, Duraisami, an attorney and former Land Court Judge, explained that the Commission is now trying to get the agency fully equipped to carry out its mandate which includes ensuring public officials declare their assets annually, as required by law.So far, it was disclosed a total of 1296 letters and declaration forms sent out to public officers – 69 to the National Assembly; 407 to the various Ministries; 242 to the 10 administrative regions and 576 to the various constitutional agencies. However, only 248 forms were returned to the Commission.Asked specifically about those received from MPs, Duraisami said not all of the MPs have been complying and sending in their declarations.“Some of them [have submitted their declarations] but I can’t tell you how many. Most of them, I expect, will be complying soon,” he stated.The new Integrity Commission office at Fifth Avenue and Church Road, SubryanvilleThe Chairman could not give a specific number or say whether these compliant MPs are from the Government’s or Opposition’s side because they are yet to go through the 200 plus forms received since they only moved into their new office in Subryanville, Georgetown, two weeks ago. However, he lamented that the MPs are not the only ones with outstanding declarations.In fact, Duraisami outlined that since June, they have been giving several extensions to allow defaulters to comply with the integrity laws. He further added that consideration is now being given for another two-month extension to ensure all those who are required to declare their assets are able to do so, reminding that these persons can be taken before the courts if they fail to make their declarations.Moreover, Duraisami posited that while the Commission had a secretariat in place prior to the appointment of the Chairman and Commissioners back in February, persons were not submitting their declarations as required since the law says that the declarations should be made to the Chairman of the Integrity Commission.In fact, it was revealed that over the past few years, there have only been between five to 20 submissions annually, with only six declarations of assets in 2017.Nevertheless, having been occupying limited space at the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) since its reconstitution earlier this year, the Integrity Commission recently moved into its new office located at Fifth Avenue and Church Road, Subryanville, and efforts are now being undertaken to secure additional staffing including a legal and compliance officer; two investigators; accountants and a host of other administrative staff.“We don’t have employees in place right now to run this Commission… We got some advertisements done and we’re hoping to interview some of these applicants before the end of this month so that we can get the organisation fully running sometime thereafter,” Duraisami stated.The Commission was previously unable to make these employments since they only recently secured a supplementary budget.The Commission aims to improve public confidence in the integrity of persons in public office by ensuring that they submit their declarations in compliance with the Integrity Commission Act. To this end, the Chairman posited that having pursued the laws governing the operations of the Commission, they have identified some areas which they feel needed to be amended and so they will have to make the necessary recommendations to the Prime Minister, who has responsibility over the Commission.Among the issues they have so far identified, the Chairman stated, is the fiscal year of the Commission, which runs from July 1 to June 30 with the deadline for declarations stipulated at June 30. The Chairman noted that they would like this change to coincide with the fiscal year of the Guyana Revenue Authority (January 1 to December 31) and its deadline for the filing of tax returns – April 30.Furthermore, the head of the Integrity Commission disclosed that they are also looking at the list of public officers who are required to file a declaration of their assets such as board members. Duraisami referenced a specific case where the chairperson of a Board challenged the declaration because her services were voluntary and she was not receiving a salary.In addition, the Chairman also indicated that another area they have to look at is the Guyana Police Force whereby only the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners are required to make declarations. However, he noted that they would want to extend this to include the Divisional Commanders as well as the Crime and Traffic Chiefs.Duraisami added that the same consideration is being given to the GRA, in an effort to rope in those branch managers in the various regions to declare their assets. He mentioned too that officers at the Lands Registry will also have to be included in this bracket since they current have no obligations to make any declarations.“So we are looking at a broad spectrum of areas where corruption is likely to occur,” the Chairman of the Integrity Commission asserted.