REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Tuesday 20th May 2020
Dear Proprietor Freedom Newspaper
Please allow me space in your Newspaper to shed some light on article published in your paper entitled “GAMBIA: BREAKING NEWS: HEALTH MINISTER SAMATEH, HIS PS JAITEH AND CO HAVE BEEN ENGULFED IN A MEDICAL SUPPLIES PROCUREMENT SCANDAL IN TURKEY; AS HEALTH MINISTRY RENEGOTIATES $10 MILLION WORLD BANK PROCUREMENT FINANCED DEAL!”
First of all, let me enlighten you and your audience that under given circumstances single sourcing is a legally accepted method of procurement. The circumstance under which this particular activity was conducted is no different from those circumstances that one may be obliged to opt for, since the Gambian Ministry of Health like all others have a responsibility to address its share of the global pandemic that is ravaging everyone’s life around the world.
Let me inform you that the procurement being alluded to came at the heels the dire need for immediate action to stock our nation’s health care system, which has for ages been lacking needed equipment and supplies to provide adequate capacity in our facilities. The World Bank through the facilitation of its Country Task Team Leader (TTL) facilitated the swift acquisition of USD 10 million under the World Bank emergency support window. This money is meant to support relevant components of the National Health Emergency Plan including the procurement of equipment and supplies. Thus, through the facilitation of the World Bank Task Team Leader, a rapid process of single sourcing was followed using World Bank guidelines amid fears of not being locked out of access to vital equipment and supplies, knowing that countries around the globe were implementing lockdowns, businesses were scaling down manufacturing activities, air spaces being frozen and prices escalating daily at unprecedented rates due to global demand driven by the high volume of requirements from the more developed countries many of whom were sourcing equipment from Turkey.
Mr. Proprietor, it might be put to you that a lot of good reasoning had been put into this process at a time when nothing much was certain about what happens the next day. The fact that although the World Bank approved the grant funding, time was of the essence for the relevant transfer to be made from Washington to TMS Company in Turkey. The transfer processes to the Gambia was to attract additional transaction costs that could be avoided and these materials most be pre-inspected by a relevant expert prior to shipment, which was to be almost impossible without some form of facilitated arrangement and initial payment. It was therefore accepted that we rely on the Work Bank facilitation for direct payment and hire of experts for pre-shipment inspection. To the best of our knowledge, none of the above has violated the due process and are cognizant of international best practice.
Secondly, this Ministry’s decision to renegotiate with TMS Company was based on the need to do further due diligence to explore further avenues of savings despite the signing of a contract which was never rushed as it was erroneously put. In fact, the signing was done at the very end when all necessary procedures were completed including the No-objection of World Bank New York office and the acquisition of Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) approval. The GPPA was engaged to ensure that additional safeguard and due diligence measures are documented notwithstanding the sufficiency of the World Bank provisions.
Price renegotiation was sought with TMS Company in view of the fact that, new information emerged later that prices for some of the items have started experiencing a downward trend (driven perhaps by the fluctuating demand situation). Upon receiving this information, the Minister of Health decided to stop the shipment already arranged by TMS Company in order to allow further due diligence to explore possibilities of the country benefiting from any likely savings. Subsequently and to further clarify matters, the World Bank Task Team Leader on two occasions was summon to make a presentation before the COVID-19 Multi-Stakeholder Committee on Finance and Procurement clarifying the procedures and providing sufficient justifications. This Committee comprises among others of the Director General Internal Audit, the Accountant General, the Permanents Secretaries of Finance and Health and the Director General Gambia Public Procurement Authority. The committee granted its no-objection to the process embarked upon. Furthermore, additional quotations from other sources were sought and obtained to facilitate comparison and a request as per my letter in reference was submitted to TMS Company for consideration.
Even though there seems to be price differences however, shown between TMS and that of the others, it was only after these companies have seen the contract document of TMS with their quoted prices and so almost all prices quoted by the others are lower. This is irrespective of specifications and quality of the materials they are proposing. Notwithstanding the above, the Ministry decided to engage TMS for a possible price reduction just in case it was reasonable for us to make extra savings for the country.
It is my firm conviction that renegotiating with TMS Company is permissible in such circumstances if for all intents and purposes it could lead government to save money without causing undue delay. However, to the utter disappointment of this Ministry, while all these efforts are being done in the background in the best interest of The Gambian people, certain individuals would connive with detractors to throw spanners unnecessarily into the Ministry’s good efforts just to distract, derail and harm the national interest.
The Ministry is however, available for any clarification on any issue before publication because we base our actions on transparency and accountability and will not hesitate to give details of any activity we are doing. The fact that some people will obtain such documents by all means is to try to undermine the good efforts of the ministry and to distract us from the hard work we are doing for the people of this country during this trying times.
It might finally interest you to know that the portion of the equipment procurement that is going to be from the Government’s COVID-19 funds is ongoing. The bidding documents are being prepared and the tenders will soon be floated for a competitive bidding process.
Muhamadou Lamin Jaiteh
Permanent Secretary 1
Editor’s note: Thanks PS Muhamadou Lamin Jaiteh for the clarification. Much appreciated. Have a great weekend. Happy Koriteh in advance.