MARTYN NAMORONG | Namorong Report
THIS IS A STORY THAT TYPIFIES the despotic regime in Papua New Guinea. As if allegations of corrupt dealings with public funds wasn’t enough, the highest body representing PNG doctors, the National Doctors Association (NDA) has now accused the government of attempting to ‘murder’millions of Papua New Guineans.
In a statement published in The National newspaper, NDA President, Dr James Naipao, raised concerns over the awarding of a K71 million medical supplies procurement contract to Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals Limited (BPPL). Dr Naipao noted that BPPL was awarded the contract despite its lack of ISO 9002 certification.
He explained that ISO 9002 certification ensures that products and services rendered by BPPL are of the highest acceptable international standards.
“If Borneo is not ISO 9001 certified and goes ahead to bring drugs into the country from a ‘bush pharmaceutical manufacturer in China or elsewhere, then who gets the blame when patients die from counterfeit drugs?” Dr Naipao asked.
“When that happens, the government has murdered its people and is that the intention of the government?”
The statement by the NDA comes after the PNG Medical Society, led by Professors Nakapi Tefuarani and Glen Mola, called on the O’Neill government to cancel the contract to BPPL. In a statement published in November last year, they wrote:
The Medical Society of PNG appeals to the Prime Minister to reject the recommendation from the CSTB in this case, and insist that tenders for the nation’s medicines only be accepted from ISO Quality Management System accredited companies who promise to only supply medicines from GMP accredited manufacturers.
The professors warned that, should action not be taken to remedy the situation, AusAID would withdraw from supporting the distribution of medical supplies resulting in “wantok distribution companies sending out low quality and possibly counterfeit medicines to our hospitals and health centres.”
This they added would “lead to the deaths of many Papua New Guineans and also much disability.”
As a child I grew up in very remote and isolated areas in the Gulf and Western Provinces. In the bush, people depended solely on the supplies that were available at the aid posts and health centres.
Whilst urban dwellers have access to privately owned pharmacies, clinics and legal recourse should they be harmed, the most vulnerable people are the rural majority. It seems the blinding greed of the people who rule this country has reached a new extreme.
According to the PNG Medical Society, a 2011 study of drugs purchased from North China Pharmaceuticals found that they were not up to standard. The Society added that Borneo Pharmaceuticals sourced most of its drugs from North China Pharmaceuticals.
The researchers collected 14 samples from five registered pharmacies in Port Moresby for testing. They found all samples to be defective and noted that “two products, one of which was purportedly distributed by a company which proved to be non-existent, contained no detectable amodiaquine.”
In March 2011, a nationwide drug shortage forced then Health Secretary, Dr Clement Malau, to reveal that corrupt health officials were receiving 10% kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies in exchange for lucrative drug procurement contracts of up to K1 million. This led to then Health Minister, Sasa Zibe to institute changes to the systems of drug procurement and delivery in PNG.
With Australian assistance, a new drug delivery program was set in motion to deliver medical kits to 2,726 health facilities and also support procurement and distribution of emergency obstetric care equipment to 21 district hospitals and 715 health centres.
The program ended in June 2013 and Australia was willing to extend its support provided that the medical supplier had international accreditation.
Late last month, Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop announced that Australia would be cancelling a $38 million medical aid program to PNG. Australia expressed concerns over the awarding of the health procurement and delivery contract to Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals despite its lack of ISO 9002 certification.
"Our key concern was the noncompliance with PNG's own tender requirements and particularly, the supplier had to be internationally certified and that hasn't turned out to be the case," Ms Bishop said.
So why are the despots in Waigani putting the lives of millions of Papua New Guineans at risk?
In September last year EMTV News reported that prime minister Peter O’Neill was the guest of honour at the opening of a warehouse belonging to Borneo Pacific Pharmaceutical.
Now this may not necessarily be an illegal act but, in the context of the current drama over the Borneo Pacific contract, it was a rather interesting sign of government approval for the company.