GOVERNMENT’s capacity to store pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical items has been boosted by the commissioning of the $539 million Central Supplies Unit (CSU), which is more commonly known as the Kingston Bond.
The facility, which adds 1,520 square feet of storage and administrative space to the Ministry of Public Health’s capacity, was commissioned on Wednesday.
Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence said the facility was constructed as part of a promise, which was made by the APNU+AFC Government in 2015. “We are here and so the promise is kept…with the new warehouse and the extension of the Diamond bond, we are well on our way…I feel a sense of awe, pride and accomplishment as I look at this building and compound,” said Minister Lawrence during her remarks at the commissioning ceremony.
When they were elected to office in 2015, the APNU+AFC Government met a CSU facility which was dilapidated. The CSU was founded in 1982 and has since appeared to be a “moving bond” because initially it was housed at the Chief Pharmacist’s office in Quamina Street and later moved in 1984 to the ground floor of the annex at Liliendaal. In 1992, the bond was relocated to the GBC bond until 2018 when it was moved to Kingston. The unit supplied janitorial, dietary, office and print material.
“It was with dismay that I watched that building…what I saw was workers, who were asked to work in no-so-fit conditions…in my estimation I could not continue as the minister and ask the workers to continue to work in that condition,” Lawrence lamented, adding that employers must recognise that in order for people to work, they must provide a convenient environment. The minister stressed that workers at the bond were operating in unhealthy and unsafe conditions so their performance could not be enhanced in that environment.
Due to the state of the facility, it was almost impossible for there to be proper accountability of millions of dollars in items.
In addition, the ministry was experiencing damage and loss of costly items because the then wooden facility was leaking. Supplies were exposed to deterioration, caused by leakage and other storage issues. The conditions made stock unusable and the facility was delivering less value for money and inflated budgetary expenditure.
According to Minister Lawrence, those conditions led to discussions which resulted in the provision for the construction of the new facility.
The facility, which is now almost twice the previous size, has a staff room, kitchenette, accounts department, conference room, records room and much more. It also stands to address the shortcomings of the inadequate space and poorly stored stocks.
CSU’s new facility will now operate with a staff complement of 20 persons and has the ability to store more than 200 commodities.
Minister Lawrence said the additional storage will reduce the number of offsite locations which the ministry utilised.
Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo said the construction of the new facility was absolutely necessary because Government had to find storage.
He said prior to making a decision to construct the bond, government was utilising a bond owned by the New GPC Inc. until they were asked to vacate the facility. “I myself approached Bobby Ramroop and asked if he could give us even a space in the bond but, he said he needed his facility to store his pharmaceuticals. “We were confronted with a situation to find a bond and we went with the Sussex Street bond which caused controversy…we had gotten a bond which wasn’t fit but, we accepted it because it was what we could settle for at short notice,” said Prime Minister Nagamootoo.
A decision was later made to find an alternative site because government was being held “prisoner” by the pharmaceutical lobbies. “Many times we found ourselves in an impromptu situation to satisfy the demand because we didn’t have enough storage space… we had to deal with allegations of shortages and epidemic, which led to us going for pharmaceutical supplies without competitive bidding,” PM Nagamootoo lamented, adding that in some respect the government has been held prisoner because of the necessity to provide medical supplies and equipment to all hospitals.
He said the story of the Kingston Bond sounds like a miracle because government wanted to move from restricted areas. The new facility, he said, is proof that with determination the government can overcome challenges and deliver better service to Guyanese.
The facility will indeed provide a more efficient and better service to Guyanese, said Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, in his remarks. Sharma said in his previous report, he had urged the Public Health Ministry to ensure that there is proper accountability. “Sometimes recommendations are repeated without appropriate action… I am happy that they took corrective steps to ensure proper accountability,” said Sharma. He stressed the importance of storing and record keeping, and also urged the ministry to maintain good practices by having well trained staff, record keeping and well defined store keeping.