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UNICEF DUBIOUS DEAL EXPOSED

Few days back the debate that UNICEF should not be involved in procurement of drugs and other related activities was very topical in one of the local radio stations. The debate was provoked when it was realized that the excesses of UNICEF in relation to procurement and other logistical activities was not in the interest of Sierra Leone especially when there are structures in put in place to legitimately carry out these activities.

UNICEF is a nongovernmental international organization with limited functions nationally, but it became evident that it was going too deep in performing functions that national structures of the state are to perform, thus weakening the existence of these structures put in place by the state through an Act of Parliament.

An email conversation with two parties has exposed how UNICEF has been meddling with Free Health Care drugs, and how it has spent thousands of dollars for clearing containers of Free Care Health drugs that are supposed to be cleared on duty waiver, without a dime paid for per container.

Document exposing UNICEF’s handling of shipment of drugs to Sierra Leone in 2014 from January to date showed that money spent on clearing of containers amounted to US$459.941.000.00. Most of the clearance should not be paid. The August 11th, 2014 documents show how containers delay unnecessarily at the ports. Some spent 54 days, 71 days, 52 days, 60 days, 57 days, 73 days and 91 days. Payment of the containers ranged from US$4,565 to US$4,132.00 with special arrangement made between UNICEF and its private contractor.

The delays are affecting early distribution of drugs and also other arrangements that would facilitate prompt and early delivery of the drugs

See letter below

“Dear Yaron,

I refer to your mail of 1 8th August,2014 and I hereby wish to respond thus:

I wish to thank you for your attempt in providing clarifications on some of the issues raised in my earlier email to you in respect of the procurement of FHCI health commodities using donor funds.

1. CLEARING AND FORWARDING FROM THE PORTS OF ENTRY.

Whilst I do note your comments in respect of the challenges UNICEF has been experiencing in clearing of containers from the Queen Elizabeth Quay I l, however according to UNICEF the average time for clearing of containers this year for instance is 76 days with some containers having spent much more than that at the port. The fact is that this is, or should be, an unacceptable performance. As a result of this UNICEF has spent close to half a million US Dollars (USD 459,941) as payment for the clearing of containers from the porl due to demurrages. Surely a large part of this money could rather have been spent to buy more pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for the vulnerable women and children of this country. (see attached summary of all shipments to Sierra Leone for 2014). If my recollection serves me right, the issue of clearing has been a problem for as long as I could remember, since the beginning of the FHC Initiative. It would seem that someone would long ago have realized that this is not working, and that something else should have been tried. It is not clear in my mind why UNICEF had not solicited further assistance from relevant authorities to intervene if exactly this kind of problems are encountered.

2. OFFICIAL NOTIFICATION TO PROCEED WITH THE PROCUREMENT OF TRACER MEDICINES.

Whilst I do appreciate your comments on the procurement of the tracer medicines, I wish to point out that the initial list presented by UNICEF was incomplete and some discussions were needed to arrive at the right list – and indeed the list was changed accordingly. The fact is that for the distribution to have started as initially planned on June 16,2014 the tracer medicines should have arrived at NPPU warehouses no later than June 1,2014. As at June 12, 2014 only 5 of the 24 products had arrived. The last 2 products ( that would allow the distribution process to commence ) arrived on July l5 – i.e. one and half month late. This is the reason- the only reason- for the late distribution.

3. THE DRAFT RISK AND CONTROL MATRIX FOR THE FHCI

The delay we are talking about is with regards to organizing the workshop with broader participation of the Development Partners to discuss/endorse the preparatory work we did at the workshop we held with UNICEF.

4. REQUEST FOR DETAILS OF ARRIVAL OF FHC-I ITEMS

We have certainly requested more than once. Since NPPU is responsible for receipt and warehouse management, it is but natural that we are updated on the supplies in the pipeline, including receiving copies of the Container Tracking that UNICEF has been doing every week and sharing with the NPPU team. By the way, why are we not receiving this information anymore?

5. WAREHOUSING AND STOCK MANAGEMENT

The Landlord for the Fawaz warehouse has been informed of our intention to renew the lease agreement and the request for funding has been forwarded for the attention of the Minister of Health and Sanitation since August, 6th 2014. We are still awaiting a formal approval from the Minister of Health.

You may wish to also know that the NPPU team has also identified a much less costly warehouse and a far better facility to replace the Kingtom warehouse. That request has also been forwarded to the office of the Minister of Health and Sanitation for approval. Lf our request is approved then all of the products currently stored at the Kingtom warehouse could be moved to the location as soon as possible and this will save a substantial amount of money and provide better secure environment.

We are fully aware that the emergence of the EBOLA crisis has caused a delay in receiving a formal response from the Minister of Health and Sanitation.These are but a few of my comments in respect to your mail of 18th august, 2014.”

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