Posts Tagged ‘Health Department’

Profiting from Sickness: The Dark Economy of Public Health in Papua New Guinea

September 6, 2017 Leave a comment

PNGi has released the first instalment of a three-part investigation into the abusive commercial transactions that are leading to the circulation of overpriced and substandard medicines and medical supplies and the waste of millions of Kina in desperately needed funding.

Life expectancy in PNG is twenty years lower than in Australia and the lowest in the region. Eight million people in Papua New Guinea live without access to decent health care and everyone feels the impacts.

If ever there was a sector which should be safeguarded by political leaders to ensure that services are provided in an effective and efficient manner, free from malfeasance, it is public health, but as the the PNGi investigation reveals, that is far from reality.

Profiting from Sickness focuses on controversial medical goods supplier, Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals Limited, its principal, Sir Sang Chung Poh, and a network of business people, former public servants and doctors, connected to him.

Part I of Profiting from Sickness puts the spotlight on Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals Limited itself.

It reveals allegations made against Borneo Pacific from a range of credible authorities, including the Medical Association of PNG, The Global Fund’s Inspector General, a Special Parliamentary Committee, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Solicitor General’s Office, the National Doctor’s Association, front-line medical workers, Professor Glen Mola, Governor Gary Juffa, and Sir Mekere Morauta.

The general pattern common to all these allegations, is that Borneo Pacific benefits from rigged or flawed tender processes, which come at a significant cost to donors and the public. Furthermore, the goods being provided through these flawed tenders, it is claimed, have been found wanting.

All of which, it is argued, result in Borneo Pacific make engorged profits at the public’s financial and physical expense.

The consequences of this alleged abusive behaviour could not be more serious. Rather than the public health system eroding health inequalities, it is exacerbating them and missing the opportunity to make inroads into primary health care that could make a significant impact on the quality and quantity of life enjoyed by ordinary citizens. This comes at an enormous cost to family life and the national economy.

Part II of Profiting from Sickness, to be published next week, will turn the spotlight on some of Sir Sang Chung Poh’s business partners. These include some of the country’s top physicians; some of who have been investigated for abuse of position in the health system, with extremely worrying results.

Part III will look at Poh’s wider business interests, which extend into many sectors of the economy and provide some interesting connections, even reaching as far as the Prime Minister himself.


MPs laugh at health cuts

March 23, 2016 1 comment
transit facility

The Transit Medical Storage Facility in Oro is still waiting completion since 2013 despite spending of K600,000

Gary Juffa

Today I watched in absolute disgust as MPs giggled and laughed as Minister for Health made light humor at the fact that the GOVERNMENT had slashed funding for Church run health facilities to the tune of K50m.

– I had asked an explanation about the slash to our health services by the Government and could the Minister explain exactly how much and what programs exactly

Minister Malabag confirmed that the Government had cut K50m BUT only to the Churches run programs and ONLY the wages component.


– Furthermore I asked when the Transit Medical Storage Facility in Oro was to be completed since work had commenced in 2013 had not been finished. This was to be built to ensure timely delivery of drugs to our aidposts and hospitals and thus ensure we are best equipped to save lives. But the contract was never completed and yet K600,000 was paid to a contractor! Now this contract was dubiously given to a company namely Gini Construction owned by a male nurse that had ZERO experience and knowledge in building such infrastructure and had been illegally on the the Health payroll for 5 years until I took him off after I found out earlier this year. The work is substandard and remains unfinished! Drugs are not delivered in a timely manner and patients have to travel hours to Popondetta to get treatment.

The Minister acknowledged that the contractor was paid and the job incomplete! The Minister confirmed that CSTB awarded the contract! No surprise! The Minister confirmed the that the NDOH was now looking for money to complete the contract!


I also asked if the NDOH had built a lab to verify drugs imported and distributed by the contraversial Malaysian Company Borneo Pacific as the Government had promised to do since the company they were importing from China Pharmaceutical was cited for peddling counterfeit drugs by the WHO and NDOH had intentionally removed ISO Certification as a criteria to allow them to select Bormeo Pharmaceutical at an extra K20m more.

Minister admitted they had failed since to build such a lab.

Most MPs in Government giggled and laughed as the Health Minister joked about the matter in parliament during a supplementary question by Member for Lae Loujaya Kouja.

Our peoples health is no laughing matter. Especially when many in remote areas are struggling to come into towns to find help and wait hours and even days before treatment. Many vulnerable people such as babies and elderly are dying from treatable medical matters.


‘Corrupt’ drug deal halts aid to PNG

December 30, 2013 8 comments

Always interesting to see how the neo-liberal press is framing the issue…

Rowan Callick | The Australian

THE Australian government has halted its $38 million aid program to supply drugs to health centres around Papua New Guinea, following Port Moresby’s awarding of the key contract to a company with a record of providing drugs from China that are viewed as substandard.

The company won the contract despite being the highest tenderer.

Nakapi Tefuarani and Glen Mola, the president and treasurer of the PNG Medical Association, who are also leading doctors and professors of medicine, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill warning that it appeared that the procurement process for $46 million worth of drugs for next year would be “corrupt again”.

They said the government required tenderers to be International Standards Organisation accredited. However, the Central Supply and Tenders Board first extended the deadline for tenderers and then removed its own ISO requirement.

In 2011, an article in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences by Anita Nair and colleagues from the Goethe University, in Frankfurt, reported that all samples of medicines supplied to PNG from the North China Pharmaceutical Group failed to meet quality standards, and one sample was “clearly counterfeit”.

Many of the medicines supplied in recent years by the winner of the tender for next year, Borneo Pacific, have been imported from NCPG.

The Medical Association leaders warned that the withdrawal of Australia would leave PNG “to local wantok distribution companies sending out low-quality and possibly counterfeit medicines to our hospitals and health centres”, leading to “the deaths of many Papua New Guineans and also much disability”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told The Australian yesterday that she had discussed this issue at the joint ministerial forum on December 11, and had handed a letter to her PNG counterpart Rimbink Pato explaining Australia’s deep concerns.

She said: “We are trying to encourage PNG to support the establishment of an independent health procurement authority” — for which Australia would provide technical assistance, for legislation and its administration. Australia would resume its aid program to support the distribution of medical supplies that met the required standards.

Michael Malabag, the PNG Health Minister, has defended the tender, telling the Post-Courier newspaper there that “AusAID is kicking up a lot of fuss as their preferred supplier is not considered”, while Borneo Pacific is “in the process of acquiring” ISO accreditation.

Australia withdraws funding from Papua New Guinea health programs over corruption, fake drug concerns

December 26, 2013 Leave a comment

By Liam Cochrane for ABC

Australia has withdrawn funding for a $38 million program that supplies medicine to Papua New Guinean health centres, due to concerns about the way PNG has awarded contracts.

Previously, Australia’s aid agency chose the supplier and distributor for the medicines, but this year that process was handled by PNG.

In June, the PNG government removed a crucial quality-control criteria and later awarded the contract to local company linked to a Chinese supplier of sub-quality drugs.

Doctors say the distribution of ineffective medicine in a country rife with TB, malaria, pneumonia and gastro will cost lives.

Three years ago, a corruption scandal within Papua New Guinea’s health system left hospitals running out of drugs and prompted the PNG government to ask for Australia’s help in stocking health centres.

For two years, the International Dispensary Association supplied medical kits to almost 3,000 health facilities across the country.

Dr Glen Mola, treasurer of the Medical Society of PNG, has told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat the IDA did a good job getting the medicine to health clinics in remote parts of PNG.

“The person who contracted to distribute the medicine didn’t get paid unless they could take a digital photograph of the medicine arriving at the actual health facility at a time and a date that was verified by the health facility OIC,” Dr Mola said.

But the arrangement was always going to be temporary and this year the PNG government took responsibility for procuring the 2014 supply of medical kits.

Australia agreed to keep funding the program, on the condition the tender process was transparent and the companies had certain accreditation, including an internationally-recognised standard ISO 9001.

The accreditation ISO 9001 is an accreditation for Quality Management Systems which, in terms of a pharmaceutical’s, helps ensure the drugs are safe and effective.

Six companies submitted tenders, but only two had the crucial ISO 9001 – International Dispensary Association and MissionPharma/City Pharmacy Limited.

On June 6, an official at the Ministry for Health told a meeting of bidders that the ISO 9001 standard was no longer required.

The company that won the tender – Borneo Pacific – does not have the ISO 9001 accreditation but they do have a history in Papua New Guinea.

“Borneo Pacific are a company that have been in PNG for a couple of decades and they have a reputation. And many of us are very concerned because of past performance,” Dr Mola said.

Borneo Pacific is the largest supplier of drugs from the North China Pharmaceutical Group.

A survey of antibiotics in PNG in 2011, published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, found all four samples provided by North China Pharmaceutical Group were sub-standard, with one probably being a counterfeit drug.

Borneo Pacific bid of $31 million (71 million kina) was $9 million more than the bid from International Dispensary Association, which successfully delivered the kits for the past two years.

DFAT pulls funding

Concerns about the tender process have been reported in recent weeks and Australia has reviewed its role in the health centre kits distribution program.

“The Australian Government committed to fund the distribution of medical kits in PNG,” said a spokesperson from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

“This [funding] was conditional on the Government of PNG purchasing the kits from a pharmaceutical’s firm which met international drug quality standards, through a fair, transparent international tender process.

“Unfortunately, these conditions were not met and the Australian Government will not fund the distribution of the medical kits resulting from this tender process.”

The ABC understands the PNG government has set aside money in next year’s budget to pay Borneo Pacific for the medical kits.

The tender for distributing the medical kits is expected in early 2014 and the drugs are expected to arrive in May-June.

Warnings decision could lead to deaths

Dr Mola from the Medical Society of PNG says the distribution of quality drugs in these medical kits is a matter of life or death.

“If the health workers don’t receive the medicine they need to treat the patients, well then the patients die!” he said.

“It’s not like in Australia or perhaps in other countries where the patient can go just to a different facility or go to see a different doctor or something.

“When you’re in a rural or remote area of Papua New Guinea, your health centre is the only health facility for your community – there’s no alternative.”

Australia’s decision to walk away from the deal is another blow to the credibility of PNG’s claims to be improving governance and public services.

The ABC’s efforts to contact the Health Minister were unsuccessful and there has been no response to a request for comment from the Prime Minister’s office.

However a previous statement responding to concerns from the Medical Association of PNG defended the tender process.

“The National Department of Health has a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that quality medicines are brought into the country for our people,” wrote acting secretary Dr Paison Dakulala.

“As the gatekeeper for these medicines, we cannot and will not compromise this very important responsibility,” he said.

“Papua New Guineans must be assured that the Department will test these medicines … [and] when medicines do not meet our requirements, these medicines will be sent back and will be replaced, or contracts will be terminated.”

Attempt at major corruption at the Medical Supplies branch Health Dept

November 25, 2013 5 comments

Will the Prime Minister step in and stop this attempt at grand theft before it is approved?

By Profs Nakapi Tefuarani & Glen Mola (PNG Medical Association)

There have been many reports in the daily print media about suspected corruption with regards procurement by the National Department of Health for the medicines and other medical supplies required by the hospital, health centres and aid posts of the country, – including  “Fake drugs sold widely in PNG”.  “Fake drugs on the market”  “Sweep team eyes Health Dept

It seems that this year the process will be corrupt once again.  Medical supplies procurement is worth up to K100m per year, – so this is no small money we are talking about.

The story of 2014 medical supplies procurement starts on May 6th this year when the Health Dept. put out a request through the Central Supply and Tenders Board (CSTB) for a 3 year contract for procurement of health centre (medical supply) kits by international tender with a closing date of 30.5.2013.  The tender request states that suppliers who wish to put in tenders must meet certain standards,  ie, have

  • International Standards Organization (ISO9001:2008)  for Quality Management System Accreditation of the Tenderer
  • Quality assurance covering supply chain, manufacture and delivery of medical supply kits
  • Certification for Good Manufacturing Process (GMP) of the medicines to be supplied and Good Distribution Practice (GDP).

The deadline for tenders was the end of May.  However, someone must have realized that the Tenderer who is renowned for giving presents to people in the government procurement system did not have ISO ‘Quality Management System Accreditation”, because at the end of May the CSTB extended the deadline for tenders submission to 20th June.  And then on the 6th June, the Secretary for Health announced that the requirement that tenders must have ISO Quality Management System Accreditation was removed.

On the 20th June the CSTB had a meeting which revealed the following tenders submitted:

Company Tender Bid (Kina) ISO Quality Management System Accreditation ?
Sesago Ltd 111,329,916 No
Boucher & Muir Ltd 108,436,029 No
Green Limited 99,480,703 No
Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals Ltd 71,478,316 No
International Dispensary Association (IDA) 51,142,940 Yes
Missionpharma/City Pharmacy Limited 48,028,677 Yes

The CSTB uses a multi parameter method of evaluating tenders; the bidding price is just one of the factors taken into account.  Other factors include whether the bidding company “understands the project objectives”, “the methodology and resourcing of the bid” (ie quality medicines will be supplied) and whether the company “supports local industry”.  Information is that the CSTB has recommended to government that the K71m bid by Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals Ltd be accepted.  Search of the PNG Companies office reveals that this company is owned by two Malaysian businessmen.

Research published internationally shows that there have been a lot of substandard and counterfeit drugs brought into PNG in the recent past.  In 2011, Nair et al in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences reported that all samples of medicines supplied to PNG from the North China Pharmaceutical Group did not meet quality standards and one sample was clearly counterfeit (ie. a non active substance masquerading as medicine – usually starch or flour). Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals gets a lot of its medicines for importing to PNG from the North China Pharmaceutical Group.

A lot of money from overseas development partners assists PNG in the supply and distribution of medicines around the country.  AusAID has supported the Dept of Health with hundreds of millions of kina over the past several years and last year sponsored the distribution of health centre kits to every health facility in the country.  This resulted in remote health facilities receiving adequate supplies of medicines for the first time in many years. AusAID have agreed to distribute medical supplies again in 2014 as long as the tendering process for procurement is transparent and leads to the procurement of quality certified medicines.  However, if the successful bidder procures medicines from non-GMP (International Good Manufacturing Process) certified products Ausaid will withdraw its support.  Then we will be left with local ‘wantok’ distribution companies sending out low quality and possibly counterfeit medicines to our hospitals and health centres.  This will lead to the deaths of many Papua New Guineans and also much disability.  We all need say “NO”.

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.  Could the leaders of all public spirited organizations please support the Medical Society in the matter.

Video: Affectionate Angels neglected

July 29, 2013 4 comments

Exposing the hidden victims and heros of our dysfunctional health system

Rachael Shisei

The state of Papua New Guinea’s Health Service is falling way behind that it now seems, no one cares what happens next. Most of us get pissed and unintentionally get on the doctors and nurses because of the very poor service we get, that costs lives in most cases.

We all have the right to complain and demand to get the best health service because we all pay our share of taxes to the Government all year round-every year for as long as we’re ’employed’. Moreover, the government is allowing a lot of Foreign companies to come into PNG to operate what it terms as ‘Development Projects’, which obviously promises great development.

Have you ever stopped to ask these nurses and doctors why, so as to clearly see if it’s really their fault? This documentary serves to let you know that these ‘government employed’ nurses and doctors behind the white and blue uniforms are just people like you and I, and they too pay taxes, and are suffering more than you can ever imagine.

Regardless of the great negligence, these Angels don’t do favors for fame or glory, they do it to save lives, our lives.

British American Tobacco’s corporate greed

January 19, 2012 9 comments

BAT sells on average per month 100 million sticks of tobacco and annually 1.2 billion sticks of Tobacco. It is estimated that in Papua New Guinea the adult smoking population is approximately 3 million out of a population of 7 million. If you do the math, this is really scary.

BAT’s overall goal and objective is to grow volume through increased distribution, they do this by making cigarettes available in every outlet, street market, and clubs, with no concern for the exposure it has on our children.

The real reason why prices of cigarettes went up in December and in early January was because management had decided to hold back stock, because they had already hit their final year end Target in November 2011, which guaranteed them Fat bonuses. They also held back the stock because they wanted to manage their shareholder expectations down in Australia. If they had gone over target, this year 2012 shareholders will be putting more pressure and demand more from them, hence no guarantee for another fat bonus.

Because of Corporate Greed they have gone ahead and violated the basic rights of consumers in PNG, after getting them hooked on the drug.

The ICCC and IRC must investigate this because the lives of Papua New Guineans are at risk from this greedy corporate giant, and if worse comes to worse a class action in courts is possible.