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Papua New Guinea Cabinet, this month, approved a contract of more than K10 million (US$2.8 million) and awarded to a company established only a month ago in PNG for a Covid-19 cure.
The company, according to Prime Minister James Marape, will mix a new miracle drug that will save people in PNG and around the world from Covid-19, he told Cabinet in a submission.
Mid this year, the Australian government committed to share vaccines with PNG and other Pacific nations when this has been achieved, and pledged hundreds of millions of dollars on research and development to assist PNG as well.
The Post-Courier was told by several ministers that they have not concurred with awarding the K10.2 million (US$2.9 million) to that company because they did not believe the proper processes were followed.
The Minister for Health Sir Puka Temu and the former health minister Jelta Wong, when contacted, said they were not aware of the decision, and could not comment.
Other top government officials who declined to be named, also told the Post-Courier that the Public Finance (Management) Act was not followed.
National Procurement Commission CEO Simon Bole did not respond to questions to explain if the deal had gone through proper procurement processes.
“When you deal with drugs you deal with people so… I didn’t sign this one because I did not believe in it, I still think that we should follow the proper process,” a senior Cabinet minister told the Post-Courier.
“The K10 million (US$2.8 million) contract may not necessarily have gone through the national procurement process.
“This is because Cabinet has power to appoint and approve, but the results of the testing, you see, in the medical fraternity, it’s not easy, we have to deal with drugs and it takes months and years to come up with.
“But like I said, I don’t know what this Dr Kerenga (Bomai) and the guys are doing, but like I said, Cabinet can approve and may have approved this as I do not know.”
Dr Bomai is one of the eight directors and shareholders of the company awarded the K10.2 million contracts.
Treasurer Ian Ling Stuckey and Finance Minister Renbo Paita could not be reached yesterday for comment.
Finance and Treasury secretaries Dr Ken Ngangan and Dairi Vele were contacted but did not give any specific details.
Health Department secretary Dr Osbourne Liko could not be reached for comment.
Other Pandemic Control officials, when contacted, said they were not at liberty to comment. The Post-Courier also contacted a couple of medical specialists, who are involved in the company, but they said they were not allowed to comment.
On 04 September, Prime Minister James Marape posted on his personal Facebook page, in what seems to be the premature business pitch for Nuigini BioMed Limited, in which he praised a presentation made by a company director.
Marape said: “Today I was inspired by few of our own local biologists, chemists, physicist and doctors from UPNG, who advised me they concluded drug simulation on possible defense against C19.
“They, on their own free will, initiated this research and after scanning over 30,000 drugs sanctioned by WHO, received high results from three drugs they assessed which can be used for Covid-19 and they tell me this may be world’s first as global scientists search for cure for C19 and other diseases.
“Thank you, Dr Kerenga and team.”
Dr Bomai Kerenga is a director in the firm and holds 15 shares in the purported company, IPA records show.
“No good idea must be suppressed (sic), I am here to support free thinkers to advance. Opportunities are abound for those who are innovators and pursuer of dreams.
“In a country with 6 to 7 per cent of the world’s biodiversity , this ecological bank has the potential of producing organic clean food and new medicines and essential products the world will need everyday going into the future,” said arape.
It is unclear if the Prime Minister and the National Executive Council intend to commit similar support to (IMR), the research arm of the Department of Health and the country’s official medical research statutory body. IMR has existing laboratories, research sites and facilities in Madang, Maprik, Alotau, Kokopo and Port Moresby, however Post-Courier was unable to verify if Nuigini BioMed limited has such facilities. IMR has been at the forefront in the Health Department’s fight against Covid-19 since the first case earlier this year.
The company known as Niugini BioMed Limited was registered on 14 August, 2020.
Company extracts as at 09 September, 2020, indicated that the company was previously named Niugini Biotech and Pharmaceutical Limited.
The business address is registered as S-157, Chemistry, School of Natural and Physical Sciences, University of Papua New Guinea, Waigani, Port Moresby, National Capital District, PNG.
The registered postal address is A-11-2, 3rd Street, UPNG Housing Estate, UPNG, Waigani, Port Moresby, NCD.
The eight directors are Belly Asong (a Filipino national), Elizabeth Bradshaw, Dr Bomai Kerenga, Dr Christopher Kinipi, Reddy Kuama, Tony Lipiwa, Frank Me’alin, a National Parliament staff, and Dr Amos Waine.
The company secretary is Frank Me’alin while the shareholders, who hold 78 shares in a bundle, are Belly Asong (Philippines), Reddy Kuama, Dr Arnold Waine, Frank Me’alin, Dr Christopher Kinipi and Tony Lupiwa.
The other 15 per cent share is held by Dr Bomai Kerenga, while the other seven shares are owned by Elizabeth Bradshaw.
Documents of facts provided indicate that the UPNG Covid-19 team was formed with the aim to research Covid-19 for a potential cure from the existing (generic) drugs around the world.
The team members are Reddy Kuama, Dr Bomai Kerenga, Belly Asong, Dr Christopher Kinipi, Dr Arnold Waine, Dr Nick Mawe Dala and Tony Lupiwa.
The Office of the Prime Minister and the media unit were contacted but they advised the Post-Courier that they were not aware of the issue and any comment would only come from Prime Minister James Marape himself.
Post-Courier made several attempts to reach out to the Prime Minister and his Media Unit but our text, email messages and phone were unanswered.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
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