…a closer look at Govt’s parallel appointmentsPresident of the United States of America (USA) Donald Trump, campaigned and won his elections, in part, on a promise to ‘drain the swamp’ but became the laughing stock of the international community when he instead surrounded himself with Wall Street big wigs, bankers and billionaire executives.In Guyana, the David Granger administration campaigned and won, in part, on a promise to eradicate corruption but what has instead obtained is a complete removal of professionals in the employ of the health sector to be replaced with stooges.Chairman of the PAC, Opposition Member of Parliament Irfaan Ali chides GPHC CEO Allan Johnson (left) and Finance Director Ronald Charles during the PAC meeting on Monday last (Parliament Office PR photos)A CLOSER LOOKTime has since revealed that this move on the part of the David Granger administration has since facilitated – deliberately or otherwise – massive and seemingly unfettered corruption at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).A closer look at the Government appointments reveal an interesting layout of an organisational chart for a government funded entity – funded to the tune of billions each year.It reveals parallel appointments serving in positions that essentially usurp the authority of the office holders in order to wield control over the entity’s finances and procurement systems.Michael Khan, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GPHC was sent on paid leaveMichael Khan, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) was sent on leave but remains in the employ of GPHC, even as a coalition appointee Allan Johnson continues to perform the functions as acting CEO.In keeping with the slew of appointments of former military personnel to high office, George Lewis, the recently retired Army Brigadier was recently installed as Deputy Chief Executive Officer at GPHC.One of the more glaring parallel appointments at the GPHC that led in part to the recent brouhaha at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is the position of Finance Director; in fact there are two Finance Directors at GPHC.Ronald Charles was appointed by the coalition government as Director of Finance but despite the substantive portfolio, he is in charge only for procurement – as was told to Public Accounts Committee recently.FINANCE BROUHAHAMohamed Karimullah was originally sent home but rehired under murky circumstances and he also serves as Director of Financial and General Services.The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament recently heard that Karimullah had been relieved of his duties, creating a vacancy for which Charles was appointed Finance Director.George Lewis, the recently retired Army Brigadier was recently installed as Deputy Chief Executive Officer at GPHCHospital CEO, Johnson, told the Committee, “The last Board brought back Mr Karimullah as director and therefore, Mr Charles, was shifted to procurement.”Despite being in charge of procurement, Charles was presented as the Finance Director to the Public Accounts Committee.Vijai Balgobin continues to be the Assistant Director of Financial & General Services but the administration has appointed Karen Cumberbatch – Assistant Director of Finance, Materials Management.This essentially means that some of the existing positions are being executed by parallel appointments, a situation that has led to the Hospital being unable to account for millions in cash and supplies.BULK ALLOCATIONSThe Ministry of Public Health with effect from September, 2015 commenced providing a subvention under chart of accounts 6321- Subsidies and Contributions to Local Organisations, to GPHC. The hospital had previously been treated as a Budget Agency.This essentially means that the National Assembly would no longer scrutinise the details of the expenditure for the GPHC since billions would be turned over from the treasury in a bulk sum for the Granger administration appointed officials to expend.This led to the Auditor General finding that in the first year of this practice under the new administration, GPHC flouted the laws and failed to submit its financial reports for the period.GPHC is required to produce audited accounts not later than six months after the expiry of each calendar year, and have same laid in the National Assembly not later than nine months after the expiry of the calendar year to which it relates.This matter was raised by the Public Accounts Committee where it was discovered that more than a year later the officials appointed by the David Granger administration are yet to comply with the laws of Guyana.BREACHESThe Audit Report indicates a response from the Ministry of Public Health indicating that efforts are being made to rectify this situation, this was in 2015 but this past week the Hospital CEO repeated that efforts are still being made to rectify this situation.The Auditor General had found that there was a breach of the provisions of Fiscal Management and Accountability Act when GPHC failed to refund to the Consolidated Fund thirteen cheques valued at $19.941M that were drawn on the Appropriation Account for the year 2015.As such, the Appropriation Account would have been overstated by that amount and at the time of audit inspection the cheques were still on hand at the Corporation in contravention of the laws of Guyana.The Auditor General had found too that the Corporation had not observed Stores Regulations and circularised instructions in relation to efficient controls, operations and proper maintenance for machinery, equipment and vehicles under its control.DRUG SCANDALMore recently GPHC was embroiled in another procurement related scandal when information surfaced that the management moved to sideline local companies for the purchase of emergency pharmaceuticals worth in excess of $605 million from a Trinidadian firm, ANSA McAL.That company subsequently made a multi-million-dollar donation to the administration in the form of an Arch which was erected on the East Coast Demerara highway at Cummings Lodge.The emergency at the Hospital leading to the ‘emergency’ purchase was found to have been a manufactured incident since the officials appointed by the Granger administration had delayed and cancelled four out of its five public tenders in the preceding months, creating a situation where there is a massive shortage of pharmaceuticals, which was initially denied by the authorities, and which would have caused deaths and aggravated illnesses in patients lacking medication.It was found that GPHC CEO, Johnson, on February 28 last, wrote a letter to the Chairman of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), Berkley Wickham, requesting approval for the procurement of these “emergency drugs” in light of the shortage, from ANSA McAL to the tune of $605,962,200.This request to bypass the procurement process to sole source drugs from a foreign firm speaks loudly of some public official’s intent to sideline local companies which could have supplied the same pharmaceuticals at cheaper prices.PHARMA-WAREHOUSEIt raises the issue of motive and possible corruption, which is reminiscent of the earlier decision to rent a non-existent pharma-warehouse.The owner of the controversial Sussex Street property that was rented as a ‘Drugs Bond’ by the Ministry of Public Health for in excess of $14M monthly has also now begun supplying drugs to Government.This is another of the glaring revelations the People’s Progressive Party Civic ((PPP/C) unearthed recently when it probed the Ministry of Public Health over drugs’ purchases in that sector recently.It was unearthed recently too that the very officials appointed by the David Granger Administration spent 77 per cent of the Hospital’s total allocation for the year in the first two months of 2017.Of the total $8.5 billion allocated to the entity for the year, employment costs account for $3.1 billion; capital expenditure has been budgeted at $527million; dietary and meals at $537 million; and other purchases, such as cleaning supplies and security, have been budgeted at $579 million.RAPE TREASURYThis means there is about $2.6 billion for the year for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies.With $2 billion of that money already spent in the first two months of the year — representing some 77 per cent of the total allocation for the year – Government will undoubtedly be heading to the coffers for more money.Spending to be presided over by the Organisational Structure put in place by the David Granger administration after taking office in 2015 – the first course of action being to allocate the Hospital its money in a lump sum without any scrutiny from Parliament before it is approved.At least one opposition Member of Parliament has since opined that a “raping of the treasury will take place” during the August recess, and the full amount would not be made known until October, when Government is made to lay a Supplementary Financial Paper in the National Assembly, detailing the expenditure.Another incident of note, in taking a closer look at the possibility of structured corruption at GPHC and Granger’s parallel appointments, was occasioned when the Hospital officials denied the Chairperson and members of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services entry to the drug bond controlled by GPHC in light of the countrywide reports of drug shortages.
Google will be announcing its new Pixel phone on October 9, but it seems there is little that will come as a surprise for consumers now. Fro months now we have seen renders and live images of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL that has given us a pretty good picture of what to expect from these flagships. We know that the Pixel 3 will sport a 18:9 display while the 3 XL will get a notch that’s pretty deep, whether we like it or not. And if you weren’t convinced, we now have a fresh render of the two phones from noted tipster Evan Blass, which all but confirms the design including the dual front cameras.Blass tweeted renders of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL on popular demand. Unsurprisingly, the renders show a design we have all become pretty familiar with. Both the phone will come full screen displays, but with enough bezels house dual front-firing speakers. The Pixel 3 will have even bezels on the top and bottom while the Pixel 3 XL will sport a notch, and a pretty noticeable one at that. The renders also seem to confirm that both the phones will come with dual front cameras, a major upgrade from past Pixel phones.Google has so far avoided the trend of dual cameras while the rest of the industry has accepted it as a staple. Notably, all Pixel phones so far have managed to deliver exceptional photos with single sensors, so much so that they have been regarded as some of the best camera phones in the business. It will be interesting to see how Google will take things up a notch with dual front-facing cameras. As per recent reports, the camera setup on the front will include a pair of 8MP sensors, one with f/1.8 AF lens and the other with f/2.2 fixed focus lens. On the back, Google will continue with a single camera, most like with a 12MP sensor on both the phones.advertisementAs for everything else, it is widely expected that the Pixel 3 duo will be powered by a Snapdragon 845 chipset. The base variant should come with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The other major upgrade could be Qi wireless charging support as both the phones are expected to bring a full glass panels on the back. The phones will also ship with Android 9 Pie. We’ll know if Google has anything new to announce about the Pixel phones on October 9. At the event, we also expect new Pixel Buds, Pixelbook 2 and new Google Home speakers, among other things.ALSO READ: Google Pixel 3 price leaked ahead of launch, in India likely to cost above Rs 60,000