MOPH begins forensic audit into its procurement process

MINISTRY OF PUBLIC HEALTH – THE Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has begun a forensic audit into its procurement system with help from PAHO/WHO.

The forensic audit comes on the heels of public complaints into the procurement process, the quality of drugs, and allegations of shortage of drugs, medical supplies and pharmaceuticals in the government-run sector.

Minister Lawrence during forensic audit talks

Professor Jaime Espin Balbino of the Andalusian School of Public Health, Regional Ministry of Health is spearheading the forensic exercise which will target the operations of the MOPH and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) Health Minister, Volda Lawrence (MP) said Tuesday during a meeting with officials of those entities.

“I found that it (the procurement process) was a bigger issue than I thought” Lawrence admitted during Tuesday’s early-morning meeting.

“I didn’t think it was as bad as I found it (but) this is the beginning of the process” of regularising operations in the wider health sector, Lawrence said.

The audit into how things are currently done and the specific changes that will be implemented will provide the roadmap for the future to remove the existing “vast deficiencies in knowledge and manpower” which currently hamstring the MOPH and the GPHC Lawrence said explaining the rationale for the forensic audit.

PAHO/WHO is funding the cost of conducting the audit.

While the government health sector has internal and external audits done, Lawrence feels that “a fresh eye” is needed to give the system a boost and help plug all “existing gaps”.

She iterated that the audit is not intended to harass those with responsibility in the sector’s procurement process “but to correct the system”.

MOPH Permanent Secretary (PS) Collette Adams has welcomed PAHO/WHO supporting the auditing exercise while Dr Karen Cummings, Minister within the Public Health Ministry, wants the procurement process demystified.

“There is something wrong somewhere,” Cummings observed.

Part of the de-mystification Cummings has called for will entail overcoming some existing hurdles identified by Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, PAHO/WHO’s Health System and Services (HSS) Advisor, Dr. Paul Edwards and professor Balbino.

The trio identified managerial and policy shortcomings, non-implementation of plans of action crafted by the MOPH, a paucity of information from the public health sector which can impact negatively on the forensic audit efforts and shortage and hoarding of medication by patients nationwide.

Dr. Edwards is confident that Balbino is “the right person for the job” having a wide range of experience in the field having done similar work in Europe and Latin America.

Nevertheless, he admitted that Balbino is undertaking a “daunting process” and that several consultancies will be needed to complete what Minister Lawrence wants.

He cautioned GPHC authorities not to expect immediate results following the audit, its recommendations and implementation.

“It’s not going to be accomplished overnight” Edwards said referring to the lengthy time it has taken other countries to get positive results.

While the political will to transform and modernise the MOPH and GPHC is evident, Balbino noted that this must be complemented by the appropriate financial backing and competent human resources.

“You are doing well (but) you can improve” Balbino told the MOPH and GPHC teams.

Managers of the Guyanese public health sector must continue thinking long-term but remember that “more data, better advice” Balbino said.

Audit Team

Audit Professor Balbino