Gambia’s Health Ministry has found itself in a fraudulent procurement scandal, and the Ministry is now renegotiating with a Turkish medical supply company that it earlier awarded a single sole contract without competitive bidding for the purchasing of medical equipment supplies for the tiny impoverished West African nation, the Freedom Newspaper can authoritatively report. In a letter dated May 12th 2020, Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Muhamadou Lamin Jaiteh, had pleaded with the General Manager of the Turkish based TMS company Mr. Onur Ozcan to reduce the original prices that his Ministry had agreed with the Turkish company. Failure of which, Jaiteh says “it will be difficult to justify the single sourcing from TMS. This can make payments to TMS difficult and might even affect future business prospects with TMS. We want to treat this with utmost urgency so that we can bring the matter to an amicable conclusion without further delay.”
In April of this year, the World Bank Board had approved a $10 million grant from its International Development Association (IDA) funds for The Gambia. The $10 million grant was meant to provide emergency assistance for The Gambia, in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
World Bank also says the COVID-19 Response and Preparedness Project will enhance case detection, tracing, and reporting, as well as provide equipment to isolation and treatment centers, and improve disease surveillance and diagnostic capacity. It will also focus on risk communications and community engagement for increased awareness and compliance with prevention and social distancing measures.
PS Jaiteh’s letter captioned: “REQUEST FOR RENOGOTIATION OF PRICES OF MEDICAL EQUIPMENT AND OTHER SUPPLIES BEING PROCURED FROM TURKEY,” further stated: “This letter is in reference to the Ministry of Health’s initiative to procure the above captioned items from TMS with the facilitation and sponsorship of the World Bank through its Task Team Leader in The Gambia. It might interest you to note that the World Bank has provided grant funding to the Government of The Gambia earmarked to support the COVID-l9 response activities being implemented by this Ministry. It is in this respect that Turkey was engaged to supply a full list of requirements. World Bank will bear the purchase cost of equipment for The Gambia.”
The Freedom Newspaper has been reliably informed that The Gambian government has so far made a 40% payment of the ordered medical supplies. But the quoted prices for some of the medical supplies are said to be exorbitant and wouldn’t pass any audit scrutiny.
The Internal Audit Office representative at The Gambian Embassy in Turkey was said to have first discovered the procurement fraud. The matter was taken up with the Health Ministry officials in Banjul.
Th Health Ministry couldn’t justify the TMS medical supply quotations and it is now in a dilemma. Efforts are underway from Banjul to renegotiate the deal.
“Following the signing of the supply Contract however, evidence emerged from alternative sources suggesting that TMS quoted prices for certain key items are comparatively much higher. This Ministry in its further analysis found such evidence to be pertinent and cannot be ignored since significant price differences have been observed for most of items. We present in the table below the list of affected items with prices quoted by TMS and those of others,” PS Jaiteh wrote.
“Considering this fact, this Ministry is therefore appealing that you consider reducing the prices of items highlighted, to the levels of Company A and B (above) where those are lower especially the major ones such as Ambulances, Ultrasound machines oxygen concentrators, thermometers, blood pressure machines mobile x-ray and the multi parameter patient monitors etc. Without this, it will be difficult to justify the single sourcing from TMS. This can make payments to TMS difficult and might even affect future business prospects with TMS. We want to treat this with utmost urgency so that we can bring the matter to an amicable conclusion without further delay.
It is further requested that:
(i) All the Ambulances are diesel engines of not above Z to 3litres capacity
(iD All the vehicles are2020 models,” he added.
The procurement scandal came in the wake of damning allegations that was made by Health Minister Amadou Lamin Samateh, who had accused his Ministry staffers of corruption. Samateh has accused health workers of trying to scam the government with a bogus list of 300 COVID-19 volunteers, who were not staffers of his Ministry. Samateh says he had rejected the request that was made to pay COVID-19 allowances to the said ghost volunteers.
PS Jaiteh and his staff could not be reached for comment at press time.
Below is PS Jaiteh’s letter to the Turkish company, in which he tried to renegotiate the procurement prices.
Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai
Email: [email protected]’