PAC to hold drug inquiry

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Pundari: Inquiry in response to public outcry over drug purchase

By Rebecca Kuku
THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) announced yesterday that it will hold an inquiry into the recent K100 million worth of contract awards to Borneo Pacific Phamaceutical Limited (BPPL) to supply medical kits and antibiotics.
The PAC had also served notices yesterday to BPPL, the National Department of Health (NDOH) and the National Procurement Commission (NPC) for information and documents.
PAC chairman Sir John Pundari said the inquiry was called in response to the public outcry following the announcement of the awarding of two contracts to BPPL on Wednesday last week.
“We will be looking into how the procurement and supply was carried out, how the contracts were awarded, monies that may have been paid and other relevant information.
“Our job as the PAC is to ensure that public monies are used for the right purpose and to get value for money (in return).
“But, let me also clarify that we have no personal vendetta with anyone and we are not condemning anyone,” he said.
Pundari said the PAC would also be looking into why the Australian Government withdrew its two-year A$38 million (K88 million) funding programme to supply drugs to health centers nationwide following BPPL’s successful tender for procurement and supply of drugs in 2013.
“We will also be looking into finding out where the medicines are being sourced from and why there has been continuous reports and complaints of medicine shortages over the years, despite the spending on public health services,” he added.
PAC deputy chairman Gary Juffa said public health was the Government’s priority and that “the services must be effective and reach out to the people”.
“The inquiry notices have been served in response to the public outcry since the (2019) contracts were awarded. We cannot work on rumours and allegations, so we are conducting the inquiry to collate information for review.
“And the complaints are not just coming from the public but also from the hospital and aid post health officers who have all spoken out against this. Even doctors have threatened to walk off their jobs.
“Year after year, more money have been allocated to the health sector, yet the medicine shortage has been an ongoing issue,” he said.
Juffa said the PAC was mandated to protect the people and public funds that also belong to the people.
The PAC has given the three parties 14 days to submit the information it has requested for.
Health secretary Pascoe Kase said in a statement yesterday evening that the NDOH, as a state department, was subject to all laws and policies of Papua New Guinea.
“The department is happy to report to PAC on any matter,” he added.
God is good. Despite this, NDA will still go ahead and submit the petition to remove the Health Secretary.
Both BPPL and NPC could not be reached for response, comment or confirmation of receipt of the PAC notice.
National Doctor’s Association (NDA) secretary and chief of emergency medicine Dr Sam Yockopua welcomed and applauded the inquiry saying: “God is surely good.”
“We (NDA) are ready to assist the PAC with any information it may need from doctors. We are more than 200% ready to help the PAC with its inquiry.
“The action taken by Pundari and his PAC team is akin to coming to the rescue of the citizens of PNG who have been the victims lacking health services.
“The sufferings of the sick for lack of health services must stop. What the NDA had started will now be pursued by the rightful body, a Constitutional body responsible to trace how the people’s money have been used or abused. Those implicated, justice can be served,” he added.
On Wednesday last week, Kase announced that BPPL had been awarded two contracts to supply medical kits (K65.3 million) and antitbiotics (KK43.5 million).
The following day, the NDA questioned the Government’s rationale of awarding contracts to the private sector for supply of medical kits and medicine.
Yockpua had asked: Why can’t the Government set up its own department to procure medical kits and medicine directly either, from the World Health Organisation-certified suppliers, like the International Dispensary Aassociation or equivalent, or directly from manufacturers in Asia, Australia, the US or Europe?
“Generic medicines procured this way will be cheaper and more effective.”
On Friday, Prime Minister James Marape told The National that the Government was reviewing and looking into alternative ways to improve its procurement and supply of medicines (pharmaceutical drugs) for the people.

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